Great Masters

  • Sera Khandro: A Reader's Guide

    Sera KhandroSera Khandro (1892 - 1940), also known as Kunzang Dekyong Wagmo,  was one of the great masters of the early 20th century and the English speaking world is fortunate now that both her story and her writings have been emerging more and more over the past few years.

    Her story is at once fascinating, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting.

    Tulku Thondup Rinpoche, in his remarkable Incarnation: The History and Mysticism of the Tulku Tradition of Tibet gives a superb overview:

    "This great yogini was known as a tulku of Yeshe Tsogyal, the consort of Guru Rinpoche and many others. She is an exemplar, similar to many tulkus who pursued the missions of their incarnation from childhood, even when it seemed almost impossible to succeed. Throughout her childhood and teenage years, and even into adulthood, she received transmissions and prophesies in many pure visions of wisdom dakinis and adepts. Sera Khandro Dewe Dorje was born as a beautiful princess in a rich and influential noble family in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. While she was still in her early teens, her father arranged her future marriage. The princess strongly wished to dedicate her life fully to Dharma, and she vehemently opposed the marriage arrangement. Finally, after attempting to commit suicide, she successfully undid the arranged engagement. One day, a group of rugged nomad pilgrims from Golok province arrived in Lhasa, after many months on the harsh trail. By chance, they camped on the compound of Sera Khandro Dewe Dorje’s family palace. Through a window, the young princess looked down on the compound and glimpsed Tulku Drime Ozer (1881–1924), the leader of the pilgrims. She instantly felt an immense devotion to the tulku, and from that point forward, he became the innate symbol of her spiritual direction.

    "Before long, the time came for the pilgrims to return to their home. The fourteen year old princess renounced her possessions and made a dangerous escape in order follow the pilgrims. From that day forth, Sera Khandro Dewe Dorje’s life changed drastically. She had to learn how to beg for food to survive. Her fancy clothes gave her little protection when crossing the harsh terrain of the high northern plateaus of Tibet. And her fancy, flimsy shoes gave up on her. The young princess had to keep up with the caravan by walking and running barefoot month after month with little or sometimes no food. Because of their ignorance and prejudice, no pilgrim would extend any support or protection to the princess. She hardly had any opportunity to exchange words with the tulku, as he was always strictly guarded. But she used all of these difficult circumstances to invigorate her spiritual dedication.

    "The party finally reached their home in Golok, and even there Sera Khandro Dewe Dorje endured harsh treatment from wild and jealous nomads. For over a decade she survived by taking on the lowly job of caring for the animals of nomad families. Despite these hardships, she didn’t once consider returning to the luxuries of her home in Lhasa. And during this time, she continuously received transmissions and prophesies in pure visions, enjoying the highest spiritual ecstasies with total dedication to serving the dharma and the lineage of Guru Rinpoche — the sole mission of her reincarnation.

    "At the age of thirty, Sera Khandro Dewe Dorje became the consort of Tulku Drime Ozer. For the last few years of Tulku Drime’s life, the two of them discovered many ters (the mystical revelations of esoteric teachings) together. Sera Khandro Dewe Dorje also wrote a number of scholarly texts and became a highly respected teacher of esoteric Dharma, with many mystic followers."

    Tulku Drime Ozer was the son of Dudjom Lingpa (and brother of the third Dodrubchen Rinpoche) and his tulku was Thinley Norbu Rinpoche.

    Tulku Thondup also discusses Sera Khandro in several places in his classic Masters of Meditation and Miracles.

    Sera KhandroThe most comprehensive treatment of Sera Khandro to date is Sarah Jacoby's Love and Liberation: Autobiographical Writings of the Tibetan Buddhist Visionary Sera Khandro.  This is an academic work, though of great value for anyone interested in this amazing master's life and work.

    An excerpt from Love and Liberation can be found on the Yogini Project website.  

    For a concise biography see the entry at the Treasury of Lives.

    She is also discussed in Wisdom Nectar: Dudjom Rinpoche's Heart Advice  and The Light of Fearless Indestructible Wisdom: The Life and Legacy of HH Dudjom Rinpoche.

    Sera Khandro's Works

    The most significant full work of Sera Khandro's in English is Refining Our Perception of Reality: Sera Khandro's Commentary on Dudjom Lingpa's Account of His Visionary Journey.

    This book contains four Tibetan texts in translation. First, The Excellent Path to Liberation explains how to give our attention to the teachings, and how to ground our spiritual practice in harmonious relationships with others and the world at large.

    Second, Dudjom Lingpa’s account of his visionary journey, Nangjang, Enlightenment without Meditation, translated elsewhere as Buddhahood without Meditation, teaches by example that as practitioners we should ask ourselves sincere questions concerning our perception of reality, and that we should not be content with superficial answers.

    In the third text, Sera Khandro presents Dudjom Lingpa’s work within two frameworks. She first clarifies the view on which the spiritual path is founded, the path of meditation; the ensuing conduct that reflects and enriches meditative experience; and the path’s result—awakening and enlightenment. Next she illuminates the subtleties of the great perfection view, the four tantric bonds: nonexistence, a single nature, pervasive insubstantial evenness, and spontaneous presence.

    This volume also includes a significant fourth text: a short autobiography of Sera Khandro, translated by Chatral Rinpoché’s disciple-translator Christina Monson.

    Please note that Chatral Rinpoche requested that people only read this book if they have completed ngondro, the preliminary practices, of any Vajrayana tradition.  To try to maintain visibility of this requirement, this volume is only available from


    Sera Khandro's termas are included in four volumes, only a portion of which have been translated into English.

    One of the termas she discovered was The Immaculate White Lotus: The Life of the Master from Oddiyana by Dorjé Tso, one of Guru Rinpoche's consorts who Sera Khandro is considered an incarnation of This come from the treasure cycle called The Dakini’s Secret Treasury of the Nature of Reality that was concealed by Guru Rinpoche.  It is ten short chapters that fill 17 pages in English.

    This appears in Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times, a collection of biographies of Padmasambhava.

    Note that the translator of this book referred to  her birth year was 1899 and the discovery of this text as 1927 (she wrote she discovered it when she was 27), but the consensus now puts her birth year at 1892.  So this was likely discovered around 1920.

    This treasure is still popular in eastern Tibet, where she spent most of her life.

    Additional Resources

    For additional works available in English, see her page on Lotsawa House.

    Christina Monson translated some additional material including The Excellent Path of Devotion: An Abridged Story of a Mendicant's Experiences in Response to Questions by Vajra Kin that was privately published and may prove tricky to find.

    For her works in Tibetan, see the TBRC site, currently listing 19 works.

    Sera Khandro's Legacy

    Sera Khandro's legacy remains firm today.  There are several teachers who hold the lineage.

    Kyabje Chatral Rinpoche was the main conduit to our generation. He received the lineage directly from her.  He passed it on, to among others, to his daughter, Saraswati (pictures, far right), who is considered to be the incarnation of Sera Khandro.  Saraswati has undergone extensive training under her late father’s guidance.

    Chatral Rinpoche also passed on  pith instructions from Sera Khandro's guru sadhanas, Dzogchen practices, and Chenrezig sadhanas she revealed to Dudjom Rinpoche as is recounted in The Light of Fearless Indestructible Wisdom: The Life and Legacy of HH Dudjom Rinpoche.

    Sera Khandro Lineage

    From Chatral Rinpoche's Compassionate Action. Note, the dates are no longer considered correct.

    Sera Khandro comes up repeatedly in Holly Gayley's account of the 20th century terton couple in Inseparable Across Lifetimes: The Lives and Love Letters of the Tibetan Visionaries Namtrul Rinpocheand Khandro Tare Lhamo.  Khandro Tare Lhamo is considered an emanation of Sera Khandro (recognized as such by Dudjom Rinpoche, among others) and there are aspects of her life that mirror Sera Khandro's.  For those interested in Sera Khandro, this account is essential as it demonstrates her legacy in eastern Tibet, as well as show all the connections to the present day, in particular through the Dudjom lineage.

    Namtrul and Khandro Tare Lhamo

    Namtrul Rinpoche and Khandro Tare Lhamo, an incarnation of Sera Khandro

  • Dudjom Rinpoche's Interview about Guru Padmasambhava

    The following article appeared in Volume 5 (Winter, 1976) of the Shambhala Review of Books and Ideas, a magazine that was part of Shambhala Publications (unaffiliated with Shambhala International or the Shambhala Sun), a magazine that ran a few issues in the mid 1970's.

    Tibetan Buddhism, Dudjom Rinpoche, Jigdrel Yeshe Dorje (1904–1987)

    This interview with Dudjom Rinpoche was conducted by Shambhala Publications' staff with the assistance of Tulku Sogyal who was present at the time.

    For more information, see our Dudjom Rinpoche's author page for articles, videos, books, and more.  Additionally, our Reader’s Guide: Dudjom Rinpoche, Jigdral Yeshe Dorje is a wonderful support to guide you through his numerous works.

    Shambhala Review of Books and Ideas

    Magazine  Volume 5 (Winter, 1976)

    A Guru for Turbulent Times


    An Interview with His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche

    His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche, Jigdrel Yeshe Dorje, is one of the greatest living scholars and tantric masters of Tibetan Buddhism today. His Holiness was born in 1904 in the province of Pemakod in southeastern Tibet and was recognized as the reincarnation of the great Tibetan master and yogi Dudjom Lingpa, who was famous for his discovery of many secret texts which bad been hidden away many centuries before by Guru Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism in the eighth century. He is also the reincarnation of Shariputra, the disciple of the Shakyamuni Buddha and the reincarnation of Khyeuchung Lotsawa, one of the original twenty-five disciples of Guru Padmasambhava. His Holiness is recognized by the Tibetan community as the Guru Rinpoche of our time.

    Nyingmapa is the oldest and original school of Tibetan Buddhism. The name itself means "The Ancient Ones." This School has preserved through an unbroken lineage the highest tantric teachings of the Buddha. These teachings known as Dzogchen or Ati Yoga deal directly with the original nature of mind, and through their practice one can attain liberation in the course of a single lifetime. Dzogchen is transmitted through an oral tradition. His Holiness is the supreme holder of these teachings.

    Tulku Sogyal Rinpoche was trained in the Buddhist tradition of Tibet by some of Tibet's greatest lamas and was raised as a son by the great Jamyang Khyentse. Rinpoche was educated at Cambridge and founded a Dharma center in England. Recently he has been traveling with His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche as interpreter and aide.

    His Holiness is recognized by the Tibetan community as the Guru Rinpoche of our time.

    Related Books

    The Interview with Dudjom Rinpoche

    Shambhala Publications Staff: I would appreciate your talking about the Dzogchen (rDzog-cben) teachings, or what is known as Ati yoga. Could we begin with some historical background? Does any of the Dzogchen teachings predate Buddhism?

    Dudjom Rinpoche: The Buddhist teachings that we know in this age were given to us by Buddha Shakya­muni, the historical Buddha. This is the Buddha­dharma period of Buddha Shakyamuni. However, in actual fact, the Dzogchen teachings originate from Samantabhadra Dharmakaya. They have existed from time immemorial. According to the Dzogchen lineage, there are twelve teachers, or twelve Buddhas. Buddha Shakyamuni is one of these twelve; he was the last to appear.

    Sogyal Rinpoche: So in a sense, these teachings do predate the Buddhism that is known today.

    Dudjom Rinpoche: Dzogchen teachings have, from time immemorial, been in the Dharmakaya and have been directly transmitted to the Sambhogakaya Buddhas, who have been continuously teaching in the Sambhogakaya field of timeless time. So therefore Dzogchen goes beyond historical time.

    How are these teachings transmitted?

    Dudjom Rinpoche: In the Dharmakaya field, the teaching is given directly (dGong,rGyud); it is "mind-direct" transmission. Whereas in the Sambhogakaya field the trans­mission is through signs (brDa-rGyud).

    (Note: In the Nirmanakaya field the transmission is oral (sNyan rGyud).

    And in the Nirmanakaya state?

    Dudjom Rinpoche: The twelve Buddhas that we mentioned before and who belong to the Dzogchen lineage have appeared in the Nirmanakaya state, or field. It is the state of manifestation. From the very beginning of time till now, twelve Buddhas of the Dzogchen lineage have appeared in the different spheres according to the needs of beings. However, the one known to us is Buddha Shakyamuni who was the last in the line.

    The uniqueness of Dzogchen is that if one can take the teachings to heart, it guarantees complete liberation in this lifetime and in this body.


    Are these different states or "Kayas" accomplishable in this lifetime?

    Dudjom Rinpoche: The "mind-direct" transmission is in the Dharmakaya, the samadhi state, out of which all sphere and states evolve; there are twenty-five different levels. We are on the thirteenth level, or path of the Buddhadharma. These concepts are very difficult.

    And these different states can be attained during this lifetime?

    Dudjom Rinpoche: Certainly. (Laughs) That is what Dzogchen is all about. Dzogchen has actualized this. In the present dharma of Buddha Shakyamuni there are two teachings: the Sutrayana, the causal vehicle, and the secret Mantrayana, called the resultant vehicle. Buddha Shakyamuni himself prophesied before his Parinirvana that one would come who was even greater than himself. This prophesy was fulfilled in the person of Guru Padmasambhava. He came to reveal the secret dharma teachings of Mantrayana that Buddha Shakyamuni had not fully made known. Therefore, the basis and the whole of secret Mantrayana really evolved specifically through Guru Padmasambhava.

    In what way do the teachings differ from one another?

    Dudjom Rinpoche: It takes many, many lifetimes of accumulating merit and removing defilements to attain enlightenment through the Hinayana. Even attaining bDag-med (the realization of egoless mind, liberation from samsara, or cessation of suffering), let alone enlightenment, takes many, many lives on the Hinayana path. According to the Mahayana path, one has to spend three kalpas accumulating merit and three more removing defilements. According to the secret Mantrayana path, one can reach enlightenment in seven to sixteen lifetimes. However, the uniqueness of Dzogchen is that if one can take the teachings to heart, it guarantees complete liberation in this lifetime and in this body. And if one misses the chance in this lifetime, then one can gain enlightenment in the bardo state and if not in the bardo state, then in the next lifetime. But enlightenment is completely and fully guaranteed in seven lifetimes.

    Seven lifetimes or seven thousand miles! (Laughter)

    Sogyal Rinpoche: Yes! The crucial point is that you must keep the samaya pledges of the Dzogchen teachings in this lifetime. This in itself will elevate you to a fuller spiritual development in the next life. Thus, in each successive lifetime, you will become more spiritually developed than in the previous one until ultimately you are fully enlightened: This depends on not breaking the samaya pledges.

    What are the samaya pledges?

    Dudjom Rinpoche: Samaya, or Damt-shig, are, briefly, pledges that one must keep and abide by. They are a way of taking the teachings to heart. They are mainly the body, speech, and mind pledges. this turbulent period, whatever one does is speeded up. Karma keeps pace with the twentieth century and Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) keeps pace with it also.


    Are the pledges hard to keep?

    Dudjom Rinpoche: There are so many Damt-shig, but if one were truly devoted, then keeping them is not difficult. On the other hand, if one is lazy and naive and does not have a strong mind, then keeping the pledges would be difficult. So it is very much up to oneself whether one makes it difficult or easy. Whether one keeps them or not depends on devotion (Dad pa), industry (brTson bGus), and wisdom (Shes rab).

    In Hinayana, are most of these pledges for monks?

    Dudjom Rinpoche: Even in the Hinayana there are lay devotees who keep the basic precepts. They are known as dGe,sNyan, which means those who cultivate good and virtuous dharmas; they are those who are cultivat­ing the four various levels of dGe,Nyan. You must remember that in Hinayana the stress is on conduct and on the absolute renunciation of samsara. This includes the home and marriage. From Mahayana on­wards, there is more flexibility of conduct and a greater breadth of mind, a quality of openness. In Hinayana, the view is less encompassing and the actions are more restricted.

    How does one go about practicing the Dzogchen teachings?

    Dudjom Rinpoche: Dzogchen teachings concerning the View, Meditation, and Action can only be granted and realized through the personal guidance of a qualified lama.

    Is this the reason these teachings are kept secret?

    Dudjom Rinpoche: These teachings will not be made public. The teachings can only take place if there are really serious devotees who take the teachings to heart and accept the personal guidance of a teacher. In these spiritually degenerate times, secret Mantrayana teachings are being publicly revealed; it is not realized that these teachings, especially the Ati yoga teachings, are under the protection of the Dharmapala like Ekajati. These teachings consist of rbyud (tantra), Lung (oral transmission), and Man-nGag (secret instruction and guidance). The untimely revelation of such powerful teachings would incur the wrath of these Dharmapala, which would have an adverse effect not only on the revelator but those who took part in receiving them. Misfortunes might befall them.


    Dudjom Rinpoche: Yes. Ekajati is the sole protector of the Dzogchen teachings.

    Sogyal Rinpoche: It is important that they are transmitted person­ally under favorable auspices. On the other hand, secret Mantrayana teachings are self-secret. Even if you try to learn them by yourself you won't understand them, and what is even worse, you will misunderstand them. If correctly carried out, first the teacher examines the disciple, then the disciple, after careful consideration, accepts the teacher. This way, both can cope with each other. In a situation where the teacher, with discretion and wisdom, finds the disciples ready, then fine. Otherwise we break or impair the lineage of the teachings. Once we are initiated into a particular mandala, the samaya pledges bind us together with the lineage, almost creating a common and linked karma.

    ...putting it into  practice; this is samaya. All this can be done through devotion, industry, and wisdom.

    If one of us breaks a pledge, the others in the mandala are affected. It affects the life of the lama, his works, and the spiritual development of his followers; it affects the teaching. This is very, very important, and therefore samaya pledges should not be treated too lightly. You must look before you leap. It is important to  keep harmony within the vajra family, with one's vajra brothers and sisters, all followers of the Vajra­yana path, but particularly those of one's lama: people who received the initiation or the teachings together in one circle. We must not forget the pledges to the teaching and lineage itself. It is not just a mat­ter of receiving something but of putting it into  practice; this is samaya. All this can be done through devotion, industry, and wisdom.

    Dudjom Rinpoche: There are higher Dzogchen teachings of which one cannot even receive the oral transmission without empowerment, let alone permission to read them. For instance, when the word of the Buddha was translated from the Pali and Sanskrit texts into Tibetan, the Dzogchen teachings were not included because they did not dare to make them available to the general public. Dzogchen teachings were kept separate and were called "rNying ma 'i rGyud 'bum."

    Who taught them? Who were the teachers?

    Dudjom Rinpoche: The teaching came down from the Dharmakaya Samantabhadra to the Sambhogakaya Vajrasattva, to Nirmanakaya in the form of Garab Dorje (the first human teacher of the Dzogchen lineage). From Garab Dorje it was passed to Shir'a,scng-wa (Shri Singha) and then to Padmasambhava (the second Buddha) and so forth.

    He [Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava)is the Buddha of our time and cuts through our neuroses and skillfully relates the dharma to the frustrations of our age.


    In your opinion, what are the chances of Dzogchen taking root here in the United States?

    Dudjom Rinpoche and Thinley Norbu Rinpoche

    Dudjom Rinpoche: From my travels, I think the United States has the best possibilities. Of course, it is very much up to the people themselves. There seems to be, at the present time, a tremendous interest in this line of teaching. There seems to be quite a lot of devotion to Guru Padmasambhava. It depends on the Americans themselves. Their collective karma will play an important part in how they work with the teachings. If the American people work and really want this, if they follow it properly, then of course, the compassion and blessings of the Buddhas and lamas of the lineage would take effect.

    Sogyal Rinpoche: This particular era is very turbulent and every­thing is kind of gross, but it is exactly in this kind of field that Guru Padmasambhava's compassion and power works best. And another point is that in this turbulent period, whatever one does is speeded up. Karma keeps pace with the twentieth century and Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) keeps pace with it also. He is the Buddha of our time and cuts through our neuroses and skillfully relates the dharma to the frustrations of our age.

    Dudjom Rinpoche: Yes, this is so. He is the most direct of all the Buddhas in giving aid in this age.

    So, because of this speeding up, it is not only a very turbulent and degenerate time, but it is also an exceptional time for a great deal to be accomplished on the spiritual plane.

    Dudjom Rinpoche: That's up to the people. Guru Rinpoche said,

    "Time doesn't change, people change."

    If people really follow him and ask his help, he will respond, and under his compassion and grace, the secret Mantrayana teachings will continue, especially Ati yoga teachings and, for that matter, the entire Buddhadharma. There is hope.

    This is very interesting because America, or the United States, has been exposed to Buddhism under the form of Hinayana and Mahayana since the 1800's, but when we consider Tibetan Buddhism, it was-boom. You see, it came very quickly. Suddenly the Chinese took over Tibet, and many Tibetans fled and eventually come to the States to teach Buddhism. But all this happened in a relative­ly short period of time.

    Dudjom Rinpoche: It shows the karmic link that America has with the secret Mantrayana teachings of Guru Padmasambhava. (In other words, the Tibetan Buddhism, which is the secret Mantra-vajrayana, originates from the teachings of Guru Rinpoche. Guru Rinpoche was the first and sole consolidator and propagator of the Vajrayana teachings and practice.)

    Working skillfully on ourselves and not totally giving up our worldly goods leads quickly to attainment.


    If one felt this devotion to Guru Rinpoche, how would one begin to practice?

    Dudjom Rinpoche: We must put ourselves completely in his hands: our body, our speech, our mind. Complete reliance on him, following his teachings in practice, and directing his mantra are necessary as the basis of con­fidence and strength in the Vajrayana practice. (Guru Rinpoche's mantra can be made available to all. It is one mantra that can openly be revealed.) All this is true. The uniqueness of Guru Rinpoche's line is that we do not totally have to change our life style or take on the stricter precepts as is found in Hinayana. Working skillfully on ourselves and not totally giving up our worldly goods leads quickly to attainment.

    On behalf of the Shambhala Review of Books and Ideas we would like to thank you for granting this interview.

    For more information:

    Dudjom RinpocheDudjom Rinpoche, Jigdrel Yeshe Dorje (1904–1987) was a highly revered Buddhist meditation master and the leader of the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. 

  • Tsongkhapa: A Guide to His Life and Works


    From Images of Enlightenment: Tibetan Art in Practice

    Next year, 2019, marks the 600th anniversary of Tsongkhapa Lobzang Drakpa (1357–1419), one of the most important figures in Tibet, historically and philosophically.

    To mark this anniversary, we will be publishing what will be the most comprehensive, definitive biography of this great figure, written by Thupten Jinpa. The author is best known as the main translator for the Dalai Lama, but he is an author and scholar himself, having earned a Geshe degree. In the author’s words,

    this new biography of Tsongkhapa…is aimed primarily at the contemporary reader. And it seeks to answer the following key questions for them: ‘Who was or is Tsongkhapa? What is he to Tibetan Buddhism? How did he come to assume the deified status he continues to enjoy for the dominant Geluk School of Tibetan Buddhism? What relevance, if any, do Tsongkhapa’s thought and legacy have for our contemporary thought and culture?

    In the meantime, we thought to lay out what is currently available. This is only a portion of the 210 treatises—which fill 18–20 volumes in Tibetan—that comprise Tsongkhapa's oeuvre, but more is coming out. His collected works are divided into nine parts: biographies by his students; teachings on guru yoga; lists of teachings he himself received; notes of teachings by his disciples; works of praise, letters, short teachings, prayers, poems, invocations, and other short works; works on tantra; works on Lamrim; hermeneutics; and commentaries on Indian texts including The Way of the Bodhisattva, Nagarjuna's The Root Stanzas of the Middle WayOrnament of Reason, and others.

    As for other biographical material, Robert Thurman wrote a short book in the 1970s that was recently reissued called The Life and Teachings of Tsongkhapa which, despite the title, includes only a twenty-five-page biography of him.

    We have a brief biography of Tsongkhapa included in Geshe Sonam Rinchen's commentary on The Three Principal Aspects of the Path, which is excerpted here.

    There is also a biography available on the excellent Treasury of Lives site.

    The categories below are somewhat arbitrary—the Lamrim genre encompasses much of Tsongkhapa's sutrayana teachings including Abhidharma, Mahayana, etc. and Madhyamaka is part of Mahayana. But this seemed the clearest way to present what is available is English.

    Ganden monastery, from Charles Bell, 1921
    Ganden monastery, founded by Tsongkahapa, photographed in 1921 by Sir Charles Bell

    The Lamrim

    The Lamrim genre, present in many Tibetan Buddhist traditions, stems from Atisha’s classic, The Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment. Tsongkhapa wrote several works in this class of teachings.

    The Lamrim Chenmo (completed 1402) [Lam gyi gtso bo rnam gsum]

    Tsongkhapa's main contribution to this genre is the famous Lamrim Chenmo or The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment. It is also generally considered his most influential work, studied and practiced by tens of thousands today.

    The background to this work is on one of Tsongkhapa’s own letters to a lama, included in Art Engle's The Inner Science of Buddhist Practice, where he describes it as building on Atisha’s Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment: “It is clear that this instruction [introduced] by Dīpaṃkara Śrījnāna on the stages of the path to enlightenment . . . teaches [the meanings contained in] all the canonical scriptures, their commentaries, and related instruction by combining them into a single graded path. One can see that when taught by a capable teacher and put into practice by able listeners it brings order, not just to some minor instruction, but to the entire [body of] canonical scriptures. Therefore, I have not taught a wide variety of [other] instructions.”

    In other places Tsongkhapa referred to the Ornament of Realization or Abhisamayalamkara, as the other basis for the Lamrim.

    Engle describes Tsongkhapa's Lamrim in Inner Science of Buddhist Practice, discussed below:

    Thus, a key point to recognize about the Lamrim teaching is that at its heart it is a systematic collection of oral instructions that make use of the entire range of Buddhist literature to present a comprehensive program for spiritual transformation. In addition to copious citations from traditional Indian Buddhist literature, Je Tsongkapa’s Great Treatise includes many pithy and insightful sayings of the early Tibetan teachers known as followers of the Kadampa School. The instructions begin with the most fundamental elements of Buddhist doctrine and then gradually introduce the student to the requisite meditation practices that will enable him or her eventually to become fully engaged in the vast and profound tradition that is Mahāyāna Buddhism.

    Here is a short video of His Holiness the Dalai Lama discussing how this is the one work he personally carried out on his escape from Tibet in 1959.

    This text is, of course, three volumes, so you may prefer to start with an introduction to it that is a bit more concise, and there are several good options.

    One is His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s From Here to Enlightenment: An Introduction to Tsong-kha-pa's Classic Text The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment.

    The other is Introduction to Emptiness: As Taught in Tsong-kha-pa's Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path, which presents one of the more challenging aspects of Mahayana Buddhism using contemporary examples.

    Three Principal Aspects of the Path (Lam gyi gtso bo rnam gsum)

    This is the shortest Lamrim text Tsongkhapa composed. Tsongkhapa wrote the fourteen stanzas of this classic distillation of all the paths of practice that lead to enlightenment. The three principal elements of the path referred to are: (1) renunciation, tied to the wish for freedom from cyclic existence; (2) the motivation to attain enlightenment for the benefit of others; (3) cultivating the correct view that realizes emptiness.

    The Three Principal Aspects of the Path: An Oral Teaching

    In this book, Geshe Sonam Rinpoche, the teacher of countless Westerners for decades in Dharamsala, unpacks these verses and explains how to put them into practice.

    This text is also included in Cutting Through Appearances: Practice and Theory of Tibetan Buddhism in which Geshe Sopa annotates the Fourth Panchen Lama’s instructions on how to practice this text in a meditation session.

    His Holiness the Dalai Lama teaches on this text, and this is included as the chapter “The Path to Enlightenment” in Kindness, Clarity, and Insight.

    Lotsawa House also includes a translation of these fourteen stanzas.

    Another work where Tsongkhapa’s Lamrim is featured is in Changing Minds: Contributions to the Study of Buddhism and Tibet in Honor of Jeffrey Hopkins. There are three chapters devoted to Tsongkhapa:

    1. Guy Newland’s Ask a Farmer: Ultimate Analysis and Conventional Existence in Tsongkhapa’s Lam Rim Chen Mo
    2. Daniel Cozort’s Cutting the Roots of Virtue: Tsongkhapa on the Results of Anger
    3. Elizabeth Napper’s Ethics as the Basis of a Tantric Tradition: Tsongkhapa and the Founding of the Gelugpa Order


    One of the components of The Great Treatise is Abhidharma; indeed, understanding some Abhidharma is highly valued in the Lamrim teaching system. This connection is explored in Art Engle’s Inner Science of Buddhist Practice: Vasubandhu's Summary of the Five Heaps with Commentary by Sthiramati which has nearly 100 references to him.

    Teachers of the Lamrim tradition viewed learning at least some Abhidharma material as essential to one’s spiritual practice. In his Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path, Je Tsongkapa makes a passing reference to Sthiramati’s work when he states, “I have explained these ten mental afflictions according to the descriptions that are found in The Compendium of Higher Learning [i.e., Asaṅga’s Abhidharmasamuccayaḥ], The Levels of Spiritual Practice [Asaṅga’s Yogācārabhūmiḥ], and [Sthiramati’s] commentary to the Summary of the Five Heaps.” Je Tsongkapa also quotes the early Kadampa teacher Gönbawa Wangchuk Gyeltsen (1016–1082) as saying, in part, “To learn the essential characteristics of the mental afflictions, you must listen to teachings on the Abhidharma. At a minimum, you must receive instruction on A Summary of the Five Heaps.


    Medium-Length Exposition of the Stages of the Path (1415) [Lam rim chung ngu]

    Balancing the Mind: A Tibetan Buddhist Approach to Refining Attention

    For centuries, Tibetan Buddhist contemplatives have directly explored consciousness through carefully honed and rigorous techniques of meditation. B. Alan Wallace explains the methods and experiences of Tibetan practitioners and compares these with investigations of consciousness by Western scientists and philosophers. Balancing the Mind includes a translation of the classic discussion of methods for developing exceptionally high degrees of attentional stability and clarity (shamatha/shiney) by Tsongkhapa.

    Tsong-kha-pa's Final Exposition of Wisdom
    In fourteenth and fifteenth-century Tibet there was great ferment about what makes enlightenment possible, since systems of self-liberation must show what factors preexist in the mind that allow for transformation into a state of freedom from suffering. This controversy about the nature of mind, which persists to the present day, raises many questions.

    This book first includes the corresponding lhatong or vipashyana section from the Medium-Length Exposition of the Stages of the Path. It also includes a section from the text below.

    Illumination of the Thought: Extensive Explanation of Chandrakirti’s Supplement to Nagarjuna’s “Treatise on the Middle” (1418) dGongs pa rab gsal, or dBu ma la ’jug pa’i rnam bshad dgongs pa rab gsal

    The first five chapters of this are included in Compassion in Tibetan Buddhism which Shambhala will reissue.

    Chapter 6 from this text, on the object of negation on the two truths, is also included in Tsong-kha-pa’s Final Exposition of Wisdom. The book then details the views of his predecessor Dolpopa, the seminal author of philosophical treatises of the Jonang order, as found in his Mountain Doctrine (featured in The Buddha from Dolpo: A Study of the Life and Thought of the Tibetan Master Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen), followed by an analysis of Tsongkhapa’s reactions. By contrasting the two systems—Dolpopa's doctrine of other-emptiness and Tsongkhapa's doctrine of self-emptiness—both views emerge more clearly, contributing to a fuller picture of reality as viewed in Tibetan Buddhism. Tsongkhapa's Final Exposition of Wisdom brilliantly explicates ignorance and wisdom, explains the relationship between dependent-arising and emptiness, shows how to meditate on emptiness, and explains what it means to view phenomena as illusions.

    The Prajnaparamita Corpus

    Golden Garland of Eloquence, Legs bshad gser phreng

    ornament of reason gone beyondIn Gone Beyond: The Prajnaparamita Sutras, The Ornament of Clear Realization, and Its Commentaries in the Tibetan Kagyu Tradition Karl Brunnholzl relates that in in the Blue Annals, Tsongkhapa’s first teacher said to him:

    You will first study earnestly the Abhisamayālaṃkāra, which is the
    ornament of the three “Mothers.”
    If you become learned in it, you will be able to master all the
    Keep this advice in a corner of your mind!

    Tsongkhapa certainly did study it in earnest, and the fruit was the Legs bshad gser phreng, or “Golden Garland of Eloquence,” an extensive commentary on Maitreya’s Abhisamayalamkara, “Ornament for the Clear Realizations,” and thus is also on the Prajñaparamita, or “Perfection of Wisdom” teachings. This is explored in detail in Gone Beyond, where Tsongkhapa’s work is referred to throughout.

    The third volume of this trilogy of commentaries, Groundless Paths on the Ornament of Reason (Abhisamayalamkara) is based on the Nyingma commentaries on this text, in particular those by Patrul Rinpoche.  Interestingly, of the four works on this text by Patrul Rinpoche, two of them, The General Topics of the Abhisamayalamkara and A Word Commentary on the Abhisamayalamkara, are nearly verbatim or obvious abridgments of Tsongkhapa's Golden Garland. This large volume goes into great detail tracing the relationship between Tsongkhapa’s work (which he based on the commentary of Haribhadra and Vimuktisena) and Patrul Rinpoche’s.

    Robert Thurman’s The Central Philosophy of Tibet is an annotated version this text.


    Tsongkhapa is famous—and in some circles controversial—for his presentation and positioning of the Prasangika view of Madhyamaka. Any discussion or debate of this subject invariably references Tsongkhapa.

    A Memorandum on Eight Great Difficult Points of [Nagarjuna’s] Mülamadhyamakakārikā

    A discussion of this text is included in Unique Tenets of The Middle Way Consequence School. The “unique tenets” correspond to the difficult points.

    The Center of the Sunlit Sky: Madhyamaka in the Kagyu Tradition

    This comprehensive work by Karl Brunnholzl explores all facets of Madhyamaka in the Kagyu tradition, but no analysis of Madhyamaka can leave out Tsongkhapa who appears throughout this work. There is a sixty-page section comparing the views of Tsongkhapa to those of Mikyo Dorje’s “whose writing, not only is a reaction to the position of Tsongkhapa and his followers but addresses most of the views on Madhyamaka that were current in Tibet at the time, including the controversial issue of ‘Shentong-Madhyamaka.’”

    Notes on Madhyamakālamkāra (dBu ma rgyan gyi zin bris)

    The Ornament of the Middle Way: A Study of the Madhyamaka Thought of Shantarakshita
    The late James Blumenthal explores this important text by Shantarakshita and brings in Tsongkhapa’s text on this subject.

    For a different take on this same text, see The Adornment of the Middle Way: Shantarakshita's Madhyamakalankara with Commentary by Jamgon Mipham translated by the Padmakara Translation Group, whose introduction goes into helpful detail on the various interpretations. This longer passage offers a glimpse into some of the fault lines in the debate:

    The brilliance of Tsongkhapa’s teaching, his qualities as a leader, his emphasis on monastic discipline, and the purity of his example attracted an immense following. Admiration, however, was not unanimous, and his presentation of Madhyamaka in particular provoked a fierce backlash, mainly from the Sakya school, to which Tsongkhapa and his early disciples originally belonged. These critics included Tsongkhapa’s contemporaries Rongtön Shakya Gyaltsen (1367–1449) and Taktsang Lotsawa (1405–?), followed in the next two generations by Gorampa Sonam Senge (1429–1487), Serdog Panchen Shakya Chokden (1428–1509), and the eighth Karmapa, Mikyö Dorje (1505–1557). All of them rejected Tsongkhapa’s interpretation as inadequate, newfangled, and unsupported by tradition. Although they recognized certain differences between the Prasangika and Svatantrika approaches, they considered that Tsongkhapa had greatly exaggerated the divergence of view. They believed that the difference between the two subschools was largely a question of methodology and did not amount to a disagreement on ontological matters.

    Not surprisingly, these objections provoked a counterattack, and they were vigorously refuted by Tsongkhapa’s disciples. In due course, however, the most effective means of silencing such criticisms came with the ideological proscriptions imposed at the beginning of the seventeenth century. These followed the military intervention of Gusri Khan, who put an end to the civil war in central Tibet, placed temporal authority in the hands of the Fifth Dalai Lama, and ensured the rise to political power of the Gelugpa school. Subsequently, the writings of all the most strident of Tsongkhapa’s critics ceased to be available and were almost lost. It was, for example, only at the beginning of the twentieth century that Gorampa’s works could be fully reassembled, whereas Shakya Chokden’s works, long thought to be irretrievably lost, were discovered only recently in Bhutan and published as late as 1975.

    The Wisdom Chapter: Jamgön Mipham’s Commentary on the Ninth Chapter of The Way of the Bodhisattva

    This work on the Wisdom Chapter of Shantideva’s classic, written more than four centuries after Tsongkhapa, is a presentation of a different view than that expounded by Tsongkhapa. It is, in fact, a superb source for understanding the impact of his Madhyamaka presentation in a wider context, historically and philosophically. The extensive introduction gives a very complete and comprehensive account. In sum:

    In his treatment of the Gelugpa account, Mipham concurs in all important respects with Gorampa and the rest of Tsongkhapa’s earlier critics. Indeed, his critique is possibly even more effective in being expressed moderately and without vituperation. Nevertheless, he is careful never to attack Tsongkhapa personally. Given the fact that Mipham was a convinced upholder of the nonsectarian movement, there is no reason to doubt the sincerity of the humble and respectful manner with which he invariably refers to Tsongkhapa. No sarcasm is detectable in his words:

    In the snowy land of Tibet, the great and venerable lord Tsongkhapa was unrivaled in his activities for the sake of the Buddha’s teaching. And with regard to his writings, which are clear and excellently composed, I do indeed feel the greatest respect and gratitude.

    There is, however, a striking contrast between Mipham’s veneration of Tsongkhapa, on the one hand, and his penetrating critique of his view, on the other. Mipham’s assessment seems to oscillate between an approbation of some of Tsongkhapa’s positions, regarded as unproblematic expressions of a Svātantrika approach that Mipham valued, and a determination to demolish Tsongkhapa’s philosophical innovations and their pretended Prāsaṅgika affiliations. This discrepancy has led some scholars to accuse Mipham of inconsistency. Closer scrutiny suggests, however, that Mipham’s admittedly complex attitude to Tsongkhapa was in point of fact quite coherent.


    Songs of Spiritual Experience: Tibetan Buddhist Poems of Insight and Awakening

     Thupten Jinpa’s collection of Tibetan poetry includes two poems by Tsongkhapa.

    The first is Reflections on Emptiness (pp. 83-84), which is an extract from a larger work, the rTag tu ngu’i rtogs brjod, which is a poetic retelling of the story of the bodhisattva Sadāprarudita, who is associated with the 8,000 Verse Prajnamaramita Sutra.

    The second poem is A Prayer for the Flourishing of Virtues (pp. 129-133).

    Jinpa presents Tsongkhapa’s poetry both in terms of a.) his mastery of composition and b.) his mastery of the Buddhist path.

    The first example comes through in the introduction:

    Tsongkhapa’s famous long poem entitled ‘‘A Literary Gem of Poetry’’ uses a single vowel in every stanza throughout the entire length. This is the poem from which come the famous lines:

    Good and evil are but states of the heart:
    When the heart is pure, all things are pure;
    When the heart is tainted, all things are tainted.
    So all things depend on your heart.

    In the original Tibetan, this stanza uses only the vowel a. Of course, this kind of literary device can never be reproduced in a translation, whatever the virtuosity and command of the translator.

    For the mastery of the Buddhist path, we find the following:

    To a contemporary reader, Tsongkhapa’s famous ‘‘Prayer for the Flourishing of Virtues’’ gives an insight into the deepest ideals of a dedicated Tibetan Buddhist practitioner; it presents a map of progressive development on the path. Beyond this, the mystic must utterly transform the very root of his identity and the perceptions that arise from it. From the ordinary patterns of action and reaction that make up our psyche and emotional life, the meditator must move toward a divine state of altered consciousness where all realities, including one’s own self, are manifested in their enlightened forms. In other words, the meditator must perfect all dimensions of his or her identity and experience, including rationality, emotion, intuition, and even sexuality. This, in Tibetan Buddhism, is the mystical realm of tantra.

    Here is Jinpa discussing the book overall:


    [A brief note. For those unfamiliar or only exposed through books, we strongly encourage readers to study tantra under the guidance of a qualified teacher. Book reading can only take you so far as the transmission of tantric teaching is about more than what can be put on paper.]

    Great Exposition of Secret Mantra: sNgags rim chen mo (1405)

    great expositionThis work is analogous to the tantra version of the Lamrim Chenmo, though it is very much the sarma (or later transmission from India) presentation of tantra. The first four sections of this work comprise the series The Great Exposition of Secret Mantra.

    There are three books by Tsongkhapa and His Holiness the Dalai Lama that form a series focused on Tsongkhapa's Great Exposition of Secret Mantra. In this text, Tsongkhapa presents the differences between sutra and tantra and the main features of various systems of tantra. Each of the three books below begins with the Dalai Lama contextualizing and commenting on the points presented in Tsongkhapa's text, followed by a translation of the corresponding part of the text itself.

    In Volume 1 | Tantra in Tibet, the foundations of motivation, refuge, and the Hinayana and Mahayana paths are presented. He then gives an overview of tantra, the notion of Clear Light, the greatness of mantra, and initiation or empowerment.

    Continuing his commentary in Volume II | Deity Yoga, His Holiness discusses deity yoga at length with a particular focus on action and performance tantras (the first two categories of tantra as described in the sarma, or “new translation” schools).

    Then in Volume III | Yoga Tantra the Dalai Lama details the practice of the next level of tantra, yoga tantra. With a preliminary overview of the motivation, His Holiness explains this level, which focuses on internal yoga, which here means the union of deity yoga with the wisdom of realizing emptiness. He details the yoga, both that with and that without signs, and then briefly explains how gaining stability in these practices is the foundation for some other practices that lead to mundane and extraordinary “feats.”

    An explanation of the highest yoga tantra is not included in these works, but an excellent resource is Daniel Cozort's Highest Yoga Tantra, as well as the recent and upcoming publications on Tsongkhapa's text from Columbia.

    The Six Yogas of Naropa, Zab lam Nā-ro’i chos drug gi sgo nas ’khrid pa’i rim pa yid ches gsum ldan

    The Six Yogas of Naropa: Tsongkhapa's Commentary Entitled A Book of Three Inspirations: A Treatise on the Stages of Training in the Profound Path of Naro's Six Dharmas, commonly referred to as The Three Inspirations.

    This is the famous arrangement of Naropa’s collection of tantric practices as explained by Tsongkhapa. This includes the full translation of this text and also includes an in-depth analysis of it from a historical perspective, leaving the reader a clear understanding of the text itself.

    Tsongkhapa's treatise on this system of tantric practice ... became the standard guide to the Naropa tradition at Ganden Monastery, the seat he founded near Lhasa in 1409. Ganden was to become the motherhouse of the Gelukpa school, and thus the symbolic head of the network of thousands of Gelukpa monasteries that sprang up over the succeeding centuries across Central Asia, from Siberia to northern India. A Book of Three Inspirations has served as the fundamental guide to Naropa's Six Yogas for the tens of thousands of Gelukpa monks, nuns, and lay practitioners throughout that vast area who were interested in pursuing the Naropa tradition as a personal tantric study. It has performed that function for almost six centuries now.

    Tsongkhapa the Great's A Book of Three Inspirations has for centuries been regarded as special among the many. The text occupies a unique place in Tibetan tantric literature, for it in turn came to serve as the basis of hundreds of later treatments. His observations on various dimensions and implications of the Six Yogas became a launching pad for hundreds of later yogic writers, opening up new horizons on the practice and philosophy of the system. In particular, his work is treasured for its panoramic view of the Six Yogas, discussing each of the topics in relation to the bigger picture of tantric Buddhism, tracing each of the yogic practices to its source in an original tantra spoken by the Buddha, and presenting each within the context of the whole. His treatise is especially revered for the manner in which it discusses the first of the Six Yogas, that of the “inner heat.” As His Holiness the present Dalai Lama put it at a public reading of and discourse upon the text in Dharamsala, India, in 1991, “the work is regarded by Tibetans as tummo gyi gyalpo, the king of treatments on the inner heat yoga.” Few other Tibetan treatises match it in this respect.

    A Practice Manual on the Six Yogas of Naropa: Taking the Practice in Hand Nå-ro’i chos drug gi dmigs skor lag tu len tshul

    A Practice Manual on the Six Yogas of Naropa: Taking the Practice in Hand

    Another text that is included in Tsongkhapa’s collected works is the short Practice Manual on the Six Yogas. This is included in the wider collection of texts on this practice titled The Practice of the Six Yogas of Naropa. Also included in this book are works by Tilopa, Naropa, Je Sherab Gyatso, and the First Panchen Lama.

    Gelug Kagyu Tradition of Mahamudra

    This work has three main sections: an overview of Mahamudra; the First Panchen’s text The Main Road of the Truimphant Ones, and a commentary by the Dalai Lama. The author contextualizes the selection saying that the tradition of Mahamudra in the Gelug tradition comes through Tsongkhapa. He is referenced throughout the book.

    Other Notable Works Related to Tsongkhapa

    Tibetan Literature: Studies in Genre is a collection by leading Tibetologists. The immensity of Tibet's literary heritage, unsurprisingly, is filled with references to Tsongkhapa across a wide range of subjects. Just a sampling of them include: the establishment of the Gelug order; the monastic curriculum; debate manuals; establishment of Ganden; a comparison with Milarepa; the controversies about his views; a classification of his texts; and a lot more.

    Mind in Tibetan Buddhism is an oral commentary on Geshe Jampel Sampel's Presentation of Awareness and Knowledge Composite of All the Important Points, Opener of the Eye of New Intelligence. This topic, lorig in Tibetan, was not one on which Tsongkhapa wrote a dedicated text, but he does include it in an introduction to Dharmakirti’s Seven Treatises and one of his sections includes a brief presentation on lorig. Tsongkhapa is brought up throughout this book.

    Maps of the Profound: Jam-Yang-Shay-Ba's Great Exposition of Buddhist and Non-Buddhist Views on the Nature of Reality

    This master (and massive) work by Jamyang Shaypa refers back to Tsongkhapa throughout, relying on his texts.


    Tsongkhapa is also referenced in about 60 articles on, mostly from the Snow Lion newsletter archive.

  • Chögyam Trungpa: A Reader’s Guide

    Chögyam Trungpa's legacy is nearly impossible to measure, but one gauge is his literary output.ögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s impact on the transmission of Buddhism to the West cannot be overstated. In the quarter century he spent in the West, he taught tens of thousands of students, in many cases introducing them to Buddhism for the first time. His legacy is nearly impossible to measure, but one gauge is his literary output. Shambhala has published about three dozen unique books by, about, and based on talks given by Chögyam Trungpa, with that number growing still as some of his personal editors, in particular Carolyn Rose Gimian and Judy Lief, continue to take the original audio and transcripts of his teachings and edit them for publication as books.  Amazingly, some of his earliest teachings are still those that resonate most strongly and seem the most fresh and up-to-date.

    Vast corpus of work

    It can be daunting deciding where to start with his corpus of work—not just because of the prolificacy of titles, but because they span so many subjects. Of course, Rinpoche predominantly taught on the three vehicles of Buddhism with a fresh, modern presentation. But beginning in 1976, he also presented a secular set of teachings known as the Shambhala teachings (more about this below). He also taught extensively on art, poetry, psychology, death and dying, and many more topics, both within the scope of Buddhism but also in the context of the Shambhala teachings. [Note: The shared name between Shambhala Publications and these teachings is a curiosity of history—Shambhala Publications actually had the name  before Trungpa Rinpoche had even come to the West. ”Shambhala” is an ancient name referring to a mythical kingdom in Asia whose inhabitants enjoy an enlightened society.]

    Chogyam Trungpa (1940–1987)—meditation master, teacher, and artist—founded Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, the first Buddhist-inspired university in North America; the Shambhala Training program


    Reader’s Guide

    Here you will find a guide to his works, loosely categorized and with recommendations on where to start. You are always welcome to skip ahead to any section that most interests you.

    General Introductions

    Mindfulness & Psychology


    Hinayana: The “Lesser” Vehicle
    Mahayana: The Great Vehicle
    Vajrayana: The Diamond Vehicle

    Arts & Poetry

    Shambhala Teachings

    Death, Dying, and the Bardos

    Chögyam Trungpa’s Life and Legacy

    Collected Works

    General Introduction

    All of the books in this first section are great “starter” books, providing excellent entryways into Chögyam Trungpa’s voice, philosophy, and teachings.

    1. Cutting Through Spiritual MaterialismWe will start with one book that in many ways defies categorization and is considered by many Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike as a spiritual classic. In Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, Trungpa Rinpoche highlights the most common pitfall to which almost every aspirant on the spiritual path falls prey: what he calls spiritual materialism. The universal tendency, he shows, is to see spirituality as a process of self-improvement—the impulse to develop and refine the ego when the ego is, by nature, essentially empty. “The problem is that ego can convert anything to its own use,” he said, “even spirituality.” His incisive, compassionate teachings serve to wake us up from this trick we all play on ourselves, and to offer us a far brighter reality: the true and joyous liberation that inevitably involves letting go of the self rather than working to improve it. It is a message that has resonated with students for nearly thirty years and remains fresh as ever today.
    2. The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation: Chögyam Trungpa’s unique ability to express the essence of Buddhist teachings in the language and imagery of modern American culture makes his books among the most accessible works of Buddhist philosophy. Here Trungpa Rinpoche explores the true meaning of freedom, showing us how our preconceptions, attitudes, and even our spiritual practices can become chains that bind us to repetitive patterns of frustration and despair.
    3. Not only was Meditation in Action the first book Trungpa Rinpoche wrote, it was also the first book Shambhala Publications ever published. In this work, he shows that meditation extends beyond the formal practice of sitting to build the foundation for compassion, awareness, and creativity in all aspects of life. He explores the six activities associated with meditation in action—generosity, discipline, patience, energy, clarity, and wisdom—revealing that through simple, direct experience, one can attain real wisdom: the ability to see clearly into situations and deal with them skillfully, without the self-consciousness connected with ego.
    4. The Essential Chögyam Trungpa is an excellent starting point for those who wish to have a taste of the breadth of his work. It weaves excerpts from best sellers such as Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, Meditation in Action, and other titles into a concise overview of his teachings. Forty selections from fourteen different books articulate the secular path of the Shambhala warrior as well as the Buddhist path of meditation and awakening. This “new classic” vividly demonstrates Trungpa Rinpoche’s great appreciation of Western culture that, combined with his deep understanding of the Tibetan tradition, makes these teachings uniquely accessible to contemporary readers. It will appeal to beginning students of meditation as well as those interested in Eastern religion.
    5. The Path is the Goal. The Buddha taught meditation as the essential spiritual practice. Nothing else is more important. These classic teachings on the outlook and technique of meditation provide the foundation that every practitioner needs to awaken as the Buddha did. Chögyam Trungpa here reveals how the deliberate practice of mindfulness develops into awareness, insight, and openness. He also guides us away from the ego’s trap: the urge to make meditation serve our ambition.
    6. The Pocket Chögyam Trungpa.  Trungpa Rinpooche used to say that wisdom can be taught only in the form of a hint—a hint that inclines us to recognize the wisdom in us all along. Here are 108 marvelous hints from the renowned teacher so supremely skilled at dropping them. This small book will serve as a compact introduction to his teachings for those not yet familiar with him—and as a wonderful source of daily inspiration for those who are.

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    Related Books

    Mindfulness & Psychology

    Chogyam Trungpa was one of the first teachers in the West to use the terms mindfulness and awareness to talk about the practice of meditation and the states of mind that are associated with meditation. He was a pioneer in this area and many regard him as one of the fathers of the mindfulness movement. Today, mindfulness is being used as a helpful technique in education, health, working with pain, business, and many other fields. Chogyam Trungpa’s teachings are still fresh and relevant to the understanding of the power of mindfulness in working with the challenges of everyday life.

    1. Mindfulness in Action: Making Friends with Yourself through Meditation and Everyday Awareness. The rewards of mindfulness practice are well proven: reduced stress, improved concentration, and an overall sense of well-being. But those benefits are just the beginning; it can also help us work more effectively with life’s challenges, expanding our appreciation and potential for creative engagement. This book provides all the basics to get you started, but also goes deeper to address the questions that naturally arise as your practice matures and further insight arises. A distillation of teachings on the subject by one of the great meditation masters of our time, this book serves as an introduction to the practice as well as a guide to the ongoing mindful journey.
    2. Mindfulness in Action Making Friends with Yourself through Meditation and Everyday Awareness Taught by Carolyn Rose GimianMindfulness in Action: Making Friends with Yourself through Meditation and Everyday Awareness We are so pleased to also offer an online course on this material, available on-demand, presented by one of Trungpa Rinpoche’s main students and editors, Carolyn Rose Gimian.
    3. Work, Sex, Money: Real Life on the Path of Mindfulness. We all hope that these aspects of our life will be a source of fulfillment and pleasure, and they often are. Yet they are also always sources of problems for which we seek practical advice and solutions. The best prescription, according to Chögyam Trungpa, is a dose of reality and also a dose of respect for ourselves and our world. His profound teachings on work, sex, and money celebrate the sacredness of life and our ability to cope with its twists and turns with dignity, humor, and even joy.He begins by breaking down the barrier between the spiritual and the mundane, showing that work, sex, and money are just as much a part of our spiritual life as they are a part of our everyday existence. He then discusses these subjects in relation to ego and self-image, karma, mindfulness, and meditation. “Work” includes general principles of mindfulness and awareness in how we conduct everyday life as well as discussion of ethics in business and the workplace. “Sex” is about relationships and communication as a whole. “Money” looks at how we view the economics of livelihood and money as “green energy” that affects our lives. The result is an inclusive vision of life, one that encompasses the biggest issues and the smallest details of every day.
    4. The Sanity We Are Born With: A Buddhist Approach to Psychology describes how anyone can strengthen their mental health, and it also addresses the specific problems and needs of people in profound psychological distress. Additionally, Rinpoche speaks to the concerns of psychotherapists and other health care professionals who work with their patients’ states of mind. The collection includes teachings on:
          • Buddhist concepts of mind, ego, and intelligence and how these ideas can be employed in working on oneself and with others
          • Meditation as a way of training the mind and cultivating mindfulness
          • Nurturing our intrinsic health and basic sanity
          • Guidance for psychotherapists and health professionals

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    For the full overview of the three yanas (or vehicles of Buddhism), it would be difficult to dive deeper than the three-volume Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma. In many ways Trungpa Rinpoche’s magnum opus, this set forms the complete overview of the Buddhist path. Edited by Judy Lief from many talks and seminar, this represents the most comprehensive presentation of the Buddhist path generally and the three yanas specifically.

    As Judy Lief summarized, "the hinayana refers to individual development and the path of the arhat ('worthy one'); the mahayana refers to the joining of wisdom and compassionate action and the path of the bodhisattva ('awake being'); and the vajrayana refers to fearless engagement and spiritual daring and the path of the siddha ('holder of spiritual power'). The three-yana approach presents a map of the path based on a student’s  natural, developmental progression."

    We will look at each volume more closely in the sections below.

    In The Heart of the Buddha, Chögyam Trungpa presents the basic teachings of Buddhism as they relate to everyday life. The book is divided into three parts. In “Personal Journey,” he discusses the open, inquisitive, and good-humored qualities of the “heart of the Buddha,” an “enlightened gene” that everyone possesses. In “Stages on the Path,” he presents the three vehicles—Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana—that carry the Buddhist practitioner toward enlightenment. And in “Working with Others,” he describes the direct application of Buddhist teachings to topics as varied as relationships, drinking, children, and money. The Heart of the Buddha reflects Trungpa Rinpoche’s great appreciation for Western culture and deep understanding of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, which enabled him to teach Westerners in an effective, contemporary way.

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    The Hinayana path is based on training in mindfulness and awareness, cultivating virtue, and cutting grasping.  While the presentation of the three yanas often gives one the sense that the “higher” yanas supersede the one before it, Trungpa Rinpoche was adamant that his students “don’t forget the Hinayana!” and presented each one as something that must be fully integrated if one wishes to truly progress on the path.  Describing the Hinayana, he said, "The hinayana is called the smaller vehicle, not because it is simpleminded or lacking in vision, but because it is a pragmatic, deep-rooted approach".

    His teachings on the Hinayana are very deep and practical—in no way something to skip or gloss over on the way to learning the practices of the Mahayana and Vajrayana.

    1. The first volume of the Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma is The Path of Individual Liberation and is an excellent place to start. It covers in great detail topics such as the Four Noble Truths, karma, the four foundations of mindfulness, meditation, the refuge vows, the three jewels, the five skandhas, and more.
    2. PEntering the Path The Hinayana Teachings of Chögyam Trungpa Taught by Judith L. Liefrajna Studios, our education and multimedia branch, also offers an immersive online course based on this book and taught by Judy Lief, Entering the Path: The Hinayana Teachings of Chögyam Trungpa, which consists of nine downloadable video talks along with archive video footage, meditation instructions, contemplations, and lots more. This course is designed for you to learn at your own pace, wherever and whenever works best for you.
    3. The Truth of Suffering and the Path of Liberation is Chögyam Trungpa’s in-depth exploration of the Four Noble Truths—the foundational Buddhist teaching about the origin of suffering and its cessation. It emphasizes their profound relevance not just as an inspiration when we set out on the path but at every other moment of our lives as well, showing how we can join the view—an intellectual understanding—of the teaching with practical applications in order to interrupt suffering before it arises.
    4. Glimpses of Abhidharma explains the Abhidharma, a collection of Buddhist scriptures that investigate the workings of the mind and the states of human consciousness. In this book, Chögyam Trungpa shows how an examination of the formation of the ego provides us with an opportunity to develop real intelligence. Trungpa also presents the practice of meditation as the means that enables us to see our psychological situation clearly and directly.


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    1. The second volume of The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma is called The Bodhisattva Path of Wisdom and Compassion. This is a complete overview of the Mahayana path and covers topics such as buddha nature, emptiness and compassion, the activity of a Bodhisattva, mind training (or lojong), and more.
    2. We also offer an immersive online course, The Bodhisattva Path of Wisdom and Compassion: The Mahayana Teachings of Chögyam Trungpa, which presents this work for you to access at your own pace with seven downloadable video talks, meditation instructions, contemplations, and lots more with one of his personal students and editors, Judy Lief.
    3. Lojong is a particular set of practices meant to accelerate progress on the Bodhisattva path. Feel free to take a look at our Reader’s Guide on this topic to learn more. Trungpa Rinpoche’s book on this essential set of mind-training techniques is called Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving-Kindness. The fifty-nine provocative slogans have been used by Tibetan Buddhists for eight centuries to help meditation students remember and focus on important principles and practices of mind training. The slogans emphasize meeting the ordinary situations of life with intelligence and compassion under all circumstances.
    4. Glimpses of the Profound is a collection of four Mahayana-centric teachings on the discovery and characteristics of buddha nature, emptiness, the inseparability of the vastness of the feminine principle and the dynamism of the masculine principle, and the three bodies of enlightenment (dharmakaya, sambhogakaya, nirmanakaya).

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    Vajrayana (or Tantra)

    Tantra (Vajrayana) is a vast and often misunderstood subject that Trungpa Rinpoche taught on extensively. And his presentation was quite unique—really explaining it in the context of Western culture and beliefs. It is traditionally explained that it is not a system to embark on without a fully qualified teacher, both because of possible misunderstandings but—crucially—because progress cannot be made without the direct access and transmission of the lineage.

    1. Journey without Goal: The Tantric Wisdom of the Buddha is based on the author’s talks at Naropa University. This volume introduces the reader to the principles of tantra based on the practice of meditation, leading to the discovery of egolessness. Trungpa Rinpoche provides a direct and experiential picture of the tantric world, explaining the importance of self-existing energy, the mandala principle, the role of the teacher, the meaning of tantric transmission, and the difference between Buddhist and Hindu tantra—stressing the nontheistic foundation of Buddhism. In the process, he demystifies the Vajrayana and, at the same time, affirms the power and sacredness of its ancient teaching.
    2. The third and final volume of The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma is The Tantric Path of Indestructible Wakefulness. The Vajrayana, or “diamond vehicle,” also referred to as tantra, draws upon and extends the teachings of the Hinayana and Mahayana. As with the Hinayana and the Mahayana, the formal acceptance into the Vajrayana is marked by a vow—in this case the samaya vow. There is an emphasis at this stage on the student-teacher relationship and on the quality of devotion. Generally, students must complete preliminary practices, called ngöndro, to prepare themselves for initiation into the Vajrayana path before going further. Having done so, they then receive the appropriate empowerments to begin tantric practices. Empowerment ceremonies are called abhishekas. The Vajrayana includes both form practices, such as visualizations and sadhanas (ritual liturgies), and formless practices based on allowing the mind to rest naturally in its inherent clarity and emptiness. Although on the surface there is much greater complexity in tantric practices, the principles of mindfulness and awareness and the cultivation of compassion and skillful action continue to be of central importance.The tantric path requires complete engagement and fierce dedication. It is said to be a more rapid path, but it is also more dangerous. There is a quality of directness, abruptness, and wholeheartedness. Tantrikas, or Vajrayana practitioners, recognize that the most challenging aspects of life—the energies and play of confused emotions and frightening obstacles—can be worked with as gateways to freedom and realization. Other topics covered in detail in this volume include the four reminders, the mandala principle, mahamudra, atiyoga, and more.
    3. Glimpses of Vajrayana The Tantric Teachings of Chögyam Trungpa Taught by Judith L. LiefWe also have an online course that walks you through this work, Glimpses of Vajrayana: The Tantric Teachings of Chögyam Trungpa, which consists of seven downloadable video talks along with archive video footage, meditation instructions, contemplations, and lots more.
    4. Milarepa: Lessons from the Life and Songs of Tibet’s Great Yogi: Milarepa is a central figure in Tibet, and in particular in the Kagyü tradition with Trungpa Rinpoche is so closely connected. The story of Milarepa is a tale of such extreme and powerful transformation that it might be thought not to have much direct application to our own less dramatic lives—but Chögyam Trungpa shows otherwise. This collection of his teachings on the life and songs of the great Tibetan Buddhist poet-saint reveals how Milarepa’s difficulties can be a source of guidance and inspiration for anyone. His struggles, his awakening, and the teachings from his remarkable songs provide precious wisdom for all us practitioners and show what devoted and diligent practice can achieve.
    5. Crazy Wisdom is what Chögyam Trungpa describes “as an innocent state of mind that has the quality of early morning—fresh, sparkling, and completely awake.” This fascinating book examines the life of Padmasambhava—the revered Indian teacher who brought Buddhism to Tibet—to illustrate the principle of crazy wisdom. From this profound point of view, spiritual practice does not provide comfortable answers to pain or confusion. On the contrary, painful emotions can be appreciated as a challenging opportunity for new discovery. In particular, Trungpa Rinpoche discusses meditation as a practical way to uncover one’s own innate wisdom.
    6. Orderly Chaos: The Mandala Principle explains how all phenomena are part of one reality. Whether good or bad, happy or sad, clear or obscure, everything is interrelated and reflects a single totality. As Chögyam Trungpa explains, from the perspective of the mandala principle, existence is orderly chaos. There is chaos and confusion because everything happens by itself, without any external ordering principle. At the same time, whatever happens expresses order and intelligence, wakeful energy and precision. Through meditative practices associated with the mandala principle, the opposites of experience—confusion and enlightenment, chaos and order, pain and pleasure—are revealed as inseparable parts of a total vision of reality.
    7. The Mandala Principle Chögyam Trungpa’s Teachings on Transforming Confusion into Wisdom Taught by Judith L. LiefThere is also an excellent online course elaborating on this topic called The Mandala Principle taught by Judy Lief, available on-demand. It includes six downloadable video talks along with additional videos of meditation instruction, contemplations, assessment questions, and more.
    8. Illusion’s Game: The Life and Teaching of Naropa is a “200 percent potent” teaching according to Trungpa Rinpoche, who reveals how the spiritual path is a raw and rugged “unlearning” process that draws us away from the comfort of conventional expectations and conceptual attitudes toward a naked encounter with reality. The tantric paradigm for this process is the story of the Indian master Naropa (1016–1100), who is among the enlightened teachers of the Kagyü lineage of the Tibetan Buddhism. Naropa was the leading scholar at Nalanda, the Buddhist monastic university, when he embarked upon the lonely and arduous path to enlightenment. After a series of daunting trials, he was prepared to receive the direct transmission of the awakened state of mind from his guru, Tilopa. Teachings that he received, including those known as the six doctrines of Naropa, have been passed down in the lineages of Tibetan Buddhism for a millennium. Trungpa Rinpoche’s commentary shows the relevance of Naropa’s extraordinary journey for today’s practitioners who seek to follow the spiritual path. Naropa’s story makes it possible to delineate in very concrete terms the various levels of spiritual development that lead to the student’s readiness to meet the teacher’s mind. Trungpa Rinpoche thus opens to Western students of Buddhism the path of devotion and surrenders to the guru as the embodiment and representative of reality.
    9. The Lion’s Roar: An Introduction to Tantra is based on two historic seminars of the 1970s in which Chögyam Trungpa introduced the tantric teachings of Tibetan Buddhism to Western students for the first time. Each seminar bore the title “The Nine Yanas.” Yana, a Sanskrit word meaning “vehicle,” refers to a body of doctrine and practical instruction that enables students to advance spiritually on the path of Buddhadharma. Nine vehicles arranged in successive levels make up the whole path of Buddhist practice. Teaching all nine means giving a total picture of the spiritual journey. Chögyam Trungpa’s nontheoretical, experiential approach opens up a world of fundamental psychological insights and subtleties. He speaks directly to a contemporary Western audience, using contemporary analogies that place the ancient teachings in the midst of ordinary life.
    10. Chogyam Trungpa (1940–1987)—meditation master, teacher, and artist—founded Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, the first Buddhist-inspired university in North America; the Shambhala Training programTrungpa Rinpoche had a particular connection to Japanese culture generally and Zen specifically. He introduced many rituals and ceremonies from Japan to his students including ikebana, oroyoki, the tea ceremony, and more. In The Teacup and the Skullcup: Where Zen and Tantra Meet, Rinpoche presents the strength and discipline gained from Zen. Through these talks you can see his respect for the Zen tradition and how it led to his using certain Zen forms for his public meditation hall rituals. He discusses the differences in style, feeling, and emphasis that distinguish the two paths and shows what each one might learn from the other. Also included are Trungpa Rinpoche’s commentary on the Ten Oxherding Pictures and an essay he composed in memory of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, a close friend with whom he continually exchanged ideas for furthering buddhadharma in America.
    11. The Dawn of Tantra: A collaboration between Trungpa Rinpoche and Professor Herbert Guenther, this book was a major milestone in presenting tantra to Westerners when first published in 1975. Tibet has been shrouded in mystery, and “tantra” has been called upon to name every kind of esoteric fantasy. In The Dawn of Tantra, the reader meets a Tibetan meditation master and a Western scholar, each having a grasp of Buddhist tantra that is real and unquestionable. This collaboration is both true to the intent of the ancient Tibetan teachings and relevant to contemporary Western life.
    12. Glimpses of Mahamudra: An Online Course Glimpses of Mahamudra The Tantric Teachings of Chögyam Trungpa Taught by Judith L. Lief

    Mahamudra is a meditation tradition within tantric Buddhism that points to the nature of awareness itself, elevating our ordinary perception to the level of the sacred. In this view, all experiences arise from a mind that is naturally vast, empty, and luminous. In this online course, esteemed Buddhist teacher and editor Judith Lief takes us on a journey through the mahamudra teachings of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche as presented in his Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma.

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    Arts & Poetry

    1. True Perception: The Path of Dharma Art starts with the premise that art has the power to awaken and liberate. Trungpa Rinpoche called this type of art “dharma art”—any creative work that springs from an awakened state of mind, characterized by directness, unselfconsciousness, and nonaggression. Dharma art provides a vehicle to appreciate the nature of things as they are and express it without any struggle or desire to achieve. A work of dharma art brings out the goodness and dignity of the situation it reflects—dignity that comes from the artist’s interest in the details of life and sense of appreciation for experience. He shows how the principles of dharma art extend to everyday life: any activity can provide an opportunity to relax and open our senses to the phenomenal world.
    2. Mudra: Early Poems and Songs: A mudra is a symbolic gesture or action that gives physical expression to an inner state. This book of poetry and songs of devotion, written by Chögyam Trungpa between 1959 and 1971, is spontaneous and celebratory. This volume also includes the ten traditional Zen oxherding pictures accompanied by a unique commentary that offers an unmistakably Tibetan flavor. Fans of this renowned teacher will enjoy the heartfelt devotional quality of this early work.
    3. First Thought Best Thought: 108 Poems contains both poems and songs—most of which were written since Chögyam Trungpa’s arrival in the United States in 1970—that combine a background in classical Tibetan poetry with Rinpoche’s intuitive insight into the spirit of America, a spirit that is powerfully evoked in his use of colloquial metaphors and contemporary imagery. Most of the poems were originally written in English—clearly the result of his own perceptions of new forms and media offered to him by a different culture. Each poem has its own insight and power, which come from a skillful blend of traditional Asian subtlety and precision combined with a thoroughly modern vernacular. Several of Chögyam Trungpa’s calligraphies also accompany the collection.  Edited by Trungpa Rinpoche's private secretary and author David Rome.
    4. Newly selected poetry from previously published and unpublished works, Timely Rain is the definitive edition of poems and sacred songs of the renowned Tibetan meditation master. It contains some poems from the works above as well as other sources. Edited by Trungpa Rinpoche's private secretary and author David Rome.



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    Shambhala Teachings

    Chogyam Trungpa (1940–1987)—meditation master, teacher, and artist—founded Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, the first Buddhist-inspired university in North America; the Shambhala Training programAs explained above, the Shambhala teachings, a complement to the Buddhist teachings, are a set of secular instructions which give the reader an idea of what an enlightened society could be.  It introduces meditation from the point of view of basic human goodness and bravery.

    1. Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior is the foundation of the Shambhala teachings. To begin,  there is a basic human wisdom that can help solve the world’s problems. It doesn’t belong to any one culture or region or religious tradition—though it can be found in many of them throughout history. It’s what Chögyam Trungpa called the sacred path of the warrior. The sacred warrior conquers the world not through violence or aggression but through gentleness, courage, and self-knowledge. The warrior discovers the basic goodness of human life and radiates that goodness out into the world for the peace and sanity of others. That’s what the Shambhala teachings are all about, and this is the book that has been presenting them to a wide and appreciative audience for more than thirty years.
    2. Great Eastern Sun: The Wisdom of Shambhala is a continuation of what is presented in Shambhala: The Sacred Path.  While Shambhala was an exploration of human goodness and its potential to create an enlightened society—a state that the author calls “nowness,” Great Eastern Sun—which is accessible to meditators and nonmeditators alike—centers on the question, “Since we’re here, how are we going to live from now on?”  The main themes are trust, renunciation and letting go, reiterated in many different forms, with an emphasis on how the Shambhala warrior works with these aspects of their path, in order to help others.
    3. In Smile at Fear: Awakening the True Heart of Bravery, Chögyam Trungpa offers the insights and strategies to make friends with and tame fear. Many of us, without even realizing it, are dominated by fear. We might be aware of some of our fears—perhaps we are afraid of public speaking, of financial hardship, or of losing a loved one. Chögyam Trungpa shows that most of us suffer from a far more pervasive fearfulness: fear of ourselves. We feel ashamed and embarrassed to look at our feelings or acknowledge our styles of thinking and acting; we might turn away from the reality of our moment-to-moment experience. It is this fear that keeps us trapped in cycles of suffering, despair, and distress. Chögyam Trungpa offers us a vision of moving beyond fear to discover the innate bravery, trust, and delight in life that lies at the core of our being. Drawing on the Shambhala teachings, he explains how we can each become a spiritual warrior: a person who faces each moment of life with openness and fearlessness. Afer all, “The ultimate definition of bravery is not being afraid of who you are,” writes Chögyam Trungpa. In Smile at Fear, he also looks at how to work with real obstacles in life, not just our psychological state of mind.

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    Chögyam Trungpa’s Life and Legacy

    Chogyam Trungpa (1940–1987)—meditation master, teacher, and artist—founded Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, the first Buddhist-inspired university in North America; the Shambhala Training program

    There are many accounts of Trungpa Rinpoche’s life, and we are honored to have published the following:

        1. Born in Tibet is Trungpa Rinpoche’s own account of his life up through coming to the West. As the eleventh in the teaching lineage known as the Trungpa tulkus, he underwent a period of intensive training in meditation, philosophy, and fine arts, receiving full ordination as a monk in 1958 at the age of eighteen. The following year, the Chinese Communists invaded Tibet, and the young Chögyam Trungpa spent many harrowing months trekking over the Himalayas, narrowly escaping capture.Trungpa Rinpoche’s account of his experiences as a young monk, his duties as the abbot and spiritual head of a great monastery, and his moving relationships with his teachers offers a rare and intimate glimpse into the life of a Tibetan lama. The memoir concludes with his daring escape from Tibet to India. In an epilogue, he describes his emigration to the West, where he encountered many people eager to learn about the ancient wisdom of Tibetan Buddhism.
        2. The Mishap Lineage: Transforming Confusion into Wisdom is not specifically biographical, but still illustrates the transformative principle of using obstacles and challenges as fuel for the spiritual path through telling the lively history of the Trungpa tulkus (a lineage within the Kagyü tradition of Tibetan Buddhism) of which he was the eleventh incarnation. Trungpa Rinpoche referred to his lineage as the “Mishap Lineage” because of the ups and downs and colorful lives that were typical of his predecessors—and true of his own life as well. The stories of the Trungpas are seen as a guide for the practitioner’s journey and help us to understand how important lineage and community remain for us today.
        3. Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chögyam Trungpa is Diana Mukpo’s account of her life with Rinpoche. Diana, Rinpoche's wife, led an extraordinary and unusual life as the “first lady” of a burgeoning Buddhist community in the American 1970s and ’80s. She gave birth to four sons, three of whom were recognized as reincarnations of high Tibetan lamas. It is not a simple matter to be a modern Western woman married to a Tibetan Buddhist master, let alone to a public figure who is sought out and adored by thousands of eager students. Surprising events and colorful people fill the narrative as Diana seeks to understand the dynamic, puzzling, and larger-than-life man she married—and to find a place for herself in his unusual world.Rich in ambiguity, Dragon Thunder is the story of an uncommon marriage and also a stirring evocation of the poignancy of life and relationships—from a woman who has lived boldly and with originality.
        4. Recalling Chögyam Trungpa contains a wide-range of essays and interviews from contributors in the fields of Buddhist practice and scholarship, philosophy, the arts, and literature examining the work of Trungpa Rinpoche. Rinpoche had a distinct knack for breaking down the cultural, historical, and ideological barriers that made the transmission so difficult. His skill at communicating in a living language to Western students, while remaining faithful to the traditional origins of Buddhism, was paired with an understanding of the modern world with unusual relevance. As a result, his activities in a wide range of areas—including psychology, education, theater, poetry, visual arts, translation, publishing, interreligious dialogue, the creation of a path of spiritual warriorship, and the founding of the first Buddhist university in North America—offer penetrating insights into the meaning of Buddhism for our world and our culture. This anthology is a testimony to the continuing influence of his unique qualities and work as a revitalizing force in spheres both spiritual and secular.
        5. Chögyam Trungpa: His Life and Vision by Fabrice Midal is a comprehensive and gripping account of the many dimensions of Chögyam Trungpa’s life and legacy. Covering a broad range of his activities and including a full history of his life and teachings, it is a superb account revealing a clear view of Rinpoche’s legacy.

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    Death, Dying, and the Bardos

    Buddhists are experts on death and dying—reflecting on it is entwined with every moment of a practitioner’s reflections. The Tibetan tradition has a highly evolved body of teachings on death and the dying process—and how it relates to life here and now. Two of Trungpa Rinpoche’s books are devoted to the two sides of this coin.

      1. The Tibetan Book of the Dead: The Great Liberation through Hearing in the Bardo emphasizes the practical advice that the book offers to the living. The insightful commentary by Chögyam Trungpa, written in clear, concise language, explains what the text teaches us about human psychology. This book will be of interest to people concerned with death and dying, as well as those who seek greater spiritual understanding in everyday life.  Rinpoche worked closely on this translation with Francesca Fremantle, who also wrote am extraordinary commentary on this called Luminous Emptiness.
      2. Transcending Madness: The Experience of the Six Bardos. The Tibetan word bardo is usually associated with life after death. Here, Chögyam Trungpa discusses bardo in a very different sense: as the peak experience of any given moment. Our experience of the present moment is always colored by one of six psychological states: the god realm (bliss), the jealous god realm (jealousy and lust for entertainment), the human realm (passion and desire), the animal realm (ignorance), the hungry ghost realm (poverty and possessiveness), and the hell realm (aggression and hatred). In relating these realms to the six traditional Buddhist bardo experiences, Trungpa Rinpoche provides an insightful look at the “madness” of our familiar psychological patterns and shows how they present an opportunity to transmute daily experience into freedom.


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    Collected Works ten volumes of Trungpa Rinpoche’s Collected Works Shambhala

    To date, there are ten volumes of Trungpa Rinpoche’s Collected Works, and all of them contain material not previously published in book form.

    1. Volume One contains Trungpa Rinpoche’s early writings in Great Britain, including Born in Tibet (1966); Meditation in Action (1969), and Mudra (1972).  Among the selected articles from the 1960s and ’70s are early teachings on compassion and the Bodhisattva path. Other articles contain unique information on the history of Buddhism in Tibet; an exposition of teachings of Dzogchen with the earliest meditation instruction by Trungpa Rinpoche ever to appear in print; and an intriguing discussion of society and politics, which may be the first recorded germ of the Shambhala teachings.
    2. Volume Two examines meditation, mind, and Mahayana, the “great vehicle” for the development of compassion and the means to help others. Chögyam Trungpa introduced a new psychological language and way of looking at the Buddhist teachings in the West. His teachings on human psychology and the human mind are included in this volume. It includes The Path Is the GoalTraining the MindGlimpses of AbhidharmaGlimpses of ShunyataGlimpses of Mahayana; and other selected writing.
    3. Volume Three captures the distinctive voice that Chögyam Trungpa developed in North America in the 1970s and reflects the preoccupations among Western students of that era. It includes Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism and The Myth of Freedom, the two books that put Chögyam Trungpa on the map of the American spiritual scene. The Heart of the Buddha and sixteen articles and forewords complete this volume.
    4. Volume Four presents introductory writings on the Vajrayana tantric teachings, clearing up Western misconceptions about Buddhist tantra. It includes three full-length books and a 1976 interview in which Chögyam Trungpa offers penetrating comments on the challenge of bringing the Vajrayana teachings to America. It includes Journey without GoalThe Lion’s RoarThe Dawn of Tantra; and an interview with Chögyam Trungpa.
    5. Volume Five focuses on the lineages of great teachers who have transmitted the Tibetan Buddhist teachings and on the practice of devotion to the spiritual teacher. It includes inspirational commentaries by Chögyam Trungpa on the lives of famous masters such as Padmasambhava, Naropa, Milarepa, Marpa, and Tilopa, as well as an excerpt from The Sadhana of Mahamudra, a tantric text that Chögyam Trungpa received as terma in 1968. It includes Crazy Wisdom and Illusion’s Game, as well as excerpts from The Life of Marpa, The Rain of Wisdom and The Sadhana of Mahamudra. The selected writings  also include “Explanation of the Vajra Guru Mantra,” an article never before published, which deals with the mantra that invokes Guru Rinpoche; seminar talks available in book form for the first time; and previously unpublished articles on Milarepa.
    6. Volume Six contains advanced teachings on the nature of mind and tantric experiences. Chögyam Trungpa’s commentary on The Tibetan Book of the Dead explains what this classic text teaches about human psychology. Transcending Madness presents a unique view of the Tibetan concept of bardo. Orderly Chaos explains the inner meaning of the mandala. Secret Beyond Thought presents teachings on the five chakras and the four karmas. Glimpses of Space consists of two seminars: “The Feminine Principle” and “Evam.” In the article “Femininity,” Chögyam Trungpa presents a playful look at the role of feminine energy in Buddhist teachings. And “The Bardo,” based on teachings given in England in the 1960s, had not been available in published form for many years.
    7. Volume Seven features the work of Chögyam Trungpa as a poet, playwright, and visual artist and his teachings on art and the creative process, which are among the most innovative and provocative aspects of his activities in the West. While it includes material in which Trungpa Rinpoche shares his knowledge of the symbolism and iconography of traditional Buddhist arts (in Visual Dharma), this richly varied volume primarily focuses on his own, often radical creative expressions. The Art of Calligraphy is a wonderful showcase for his calligraphy, and Dharma Art brings together his ideas on art, the artistic process, and aesthetics. Tibetan poetics, filmmaking, theater, and art and education are among the topics of the selected writings.  All of CTR’s published poetry is included in this volume, including many poems published in small journals and never before compiled into a book.
    8. Volume Eight covers matters of culture, state, and society. The two complete books reprinted here—Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior and Great Eastern Sun: The Wisdom of Shambhala—explore the vision of an ancient legendary kingdom in Central Asia that is viewed as a model for enlightened society and as the ground of wakefulness and sanity that exists as a potential within every human being. The selected writings include discussions of political consciousness, the martial arts, and the true meaning of warriorship. Two of the many previously unpublished articles are “The Martial Arts and the Art of War,” on the place of warriorship in the Buddhist teachings, and “The Seven Treasures of the Universal Monarch,” a little gem describing the world of the Shambhala monarch.
    9. Volume Nine contains an extremely diverse group of teachings from True Command; Glimpses of Realization; the Shambhala Warrior Slogans; The Teacup and the Skullcup; Smile at Fear; The Mishap Lineage; and other selected writings. This collection includes both early and later talks—from an article published in 1966 in India to books published in the new millennium to material from a set of cards that present the Shambhala warrior slogans. The subject matter ranges from Zen to dharma art, from Shambhala politics to Vajrayana buddhadharma. The selected writings in this book are articles from before Chögyam Trungpa’s death in 1987 and include two interviews and several previously unpublished pieces.
    10.  Volume Ten begins with Chögyam Trungpa’s three most recent books: Work, Sex, MoneyMindfulness in Action; and Devotion and Crazy Wisdom (published by Kalapa Media). The first two books in the volume emphasize the importance of meditation in action and bringing awareness, mindfulness, intentionality, and a sense of the sacred into everyday life. The third book explores devotion and discusses mutual commitment and surrendering between teacher and student. The selected writings in this volume range from older articles originally published in the Vajradhatu Sun to recently edited articles, including several that have not yet appeared in print. Overall, these articles show us how Trungpa Rinpoche worked deeply and directly with many interest groups and subsections of the community, and how he infused each situation with dharma, taking every opportunity to present essential teachings.

    Chogyam Trungpa (1940–1987)—meditation master, teacher, and artist—founded Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, the first Buddhist-inspired university in North America; the Shambhala Training programThere are plenty more books from Trungpa Rinpoche coming.

    The editors he trained are now training a new generation of editors to work on the vast amount of material ready to be mined for publication. Stay tuned!

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    Chogyam Trungpa

    Chogyam Trungpa (1940–1987)—meditation master, teacher, and artist—founded Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, the first Buddhist-inspired university in North America; the Shambhala Training program; and an international association of meditation centers known as Shambhala International.


  • A Readers Guide to the Sakya Master Chogyal Phakpa

    Chogyal Phagpa

    Drogon Chogyal Phagpa, better known to the world as Chogyal Phagpa (or Phakpa) is one of the five great founding masters from the Sakya tradition in Tibet. This 13th century master was the nephew of Sakya Pandita.

    Before going into the various resources in print and online, included below is his biography of Lama Migmar Tseten's Treasures of the Sakya Lineage.

    "Drogon Chogyal Phagpa was born amid excellent signs to Sakya Pandita’s younger brother, Zangtsa Sonam Gyaltsen (1184‒1239), and his wife, Machig Kunkyi, during the wood female sheep year, when his father was fifty-two years old. He recalled his past lives as Saton Riwa, Langriwa, and others.Chogyal Phagpa was taught the Saroruhavajra sadhana when he was three, and the Jatakas when he was eight; when he was nine, Sakya Pandita taught him the Hevajra-tantra. To everyone’s amazement, Phagpa gave an explanation of The Advice for Gathering Accumulations (Sambharaparikatha) by master Vasubandhu that same year, and the pride of scholars was diminished when they heard this explanation from a child. Thinking that an ordinary person could not have such wisdom, they considered him to be an Arya. Thus, he became known to all as Phagpa, which means “Arya.”

    At nine he traveled north to attend Sakya Pandita. While in Lhasa, Chogyal Phagpa received novice ordination in front of the Jowo statue, and in Kyormo Lung, he received the Getsul vow from Sherab Pal.

    He spent all his time attending Sakya Pandita during his travels and residence in China, until at seventeen Chogyal Phagpa left for Mongolia. Sakya Pandita was very pleased with him for having mastered the outer teachings and the inner Vajrayana teachings, and gave him a white conch to proclaim the Dharma and a begging bowl. Having entrusted his students to him, the master said, “The time has come for you to teach, to benefit many sentient beings, and to recall your promise.” Then Sakya Pandita passed away, having accomplished all he had intended to do.

    Having been invited by the Mongolian Khan, Phagpa established the Khan’s faith by performing miracles, such as showing each of the five Buddha families separately by cutting open the five limbs of his body with a sharp sword. Beginning with the Khan, Chogyal Phagpa bestowed the empowerment of Hevajra on twenty-five disciples and brought Vajrayana to the kingdom of Mongolia. The Khan gave Chogyal Phagpa the title of Tishri and thirteen surrounding regions of Tibet as his offering for the empowerment.

    At twenty-one, Chogyal Phagpa received full ordination on the border of China and Mongolia from the abbot of Nyethang, Dragpa Senge; the master of ceremonies was Jodan Sonam Gyaltsen. Phagpa received teachings on Abhisamayalankara and other texts from the abbot and on Vinaya from the master of ceremonies.

    Two years later, he accepted an invitation to the five-peaked mountain and received many teachings on Yamari from Tong Ton. After that, he returned to the Khan’s palace, and when a Dharma assembly was convened, he defeated twenty-three Chinese teachers in debates and showed them correct view.

    When he was thirty, he returned to the seat of Sakya, having been absent from Tibet since he was nine. He gave many teachings there; he also received many teachings on the outer and inner sciences and an ocean of transmissions and instructions from Nyan Wod Srung, the siddha Yontan Pal, Chim Namkhai Drag, Tsog Gom Kunga Pal, Lowo Lotsawa, Chiwo Lheypa Jowo Sey, and others.

    After this, he was again summoned to China by the Khan and arrived there when he was thirty-three. He appointed thirteen positions to manage different responsibilities and was offered the rest of the three provinces of Tibet as an offering for empowerments.

    At forty-two, having been in China the second time for nine years, he returned to Sakya. He taught a large Dharma festival and used all of his wealth for this event, holding nothing back. He established the basis for a Dharma college and built shrines for the body, speech, and mind of the Buddhas. He gave donations to all the poor people of the region and demonstrated only positive activities toward sentient beings. He spread the Dharma to Tibet, China, and Mongolia; ordained 450,000 novices and fully ordained monks; and bestowed Vajrayana empowerments on people of fourteen different languages. Moreover, he established countless disciples in ripening and liberation through the blessings of transmission and instruction. He gave commentaries on sutras, treatises, and the stages of practice in Hinayana and Mahayana; answered questions; and wrote many texts that are easy to understand.

    In the early morning of the eleventh month of the iron male dragon year, when he was forty-six, having endeavored greatly to benefit others, Chogyal Phagpa sat cross-legged, holding his vajra and bell. He crossed his arms, and amid sounds, amazing scents, and a shower of flowers, he passed away.

    Chogyal Phagpa was the last of the five founding masters of the Sakya school. Thanks to his efforts, the school ruled Tibet for close to a century; expanded widely; and became the country’s dominant institution of learning for the next two hundred years, producing the most famous scholars in Tibetan history, such as Buton, Dolbuwa, Longchenpa, Rendawa, Tagtsang Lotsawa, Tsongkhapa and his two chief disciples, Rongton, Dagpo Tashi Namgyal, Gorampa, and Shakya Chogden.

    Of the five masters, Sachen was considered to be the emanation of Avalokiteshvara; Lopon Rinpoche, Jetsun Rinpoche, and Sapan were regarded as emanations of Manjushri; and Chogyal Phagpa was considered to be an emanation of Vajrapani."

    A shorter but complementary biography appears in Ringu Tulku's The Ri-Me Philosophy of Jamgön Kongtrul the Great.

    In addition to the main biography above, Treasures of the Sakya Lineage. contains a translation of his short piece of advice, The Gift of the Dharma to Kublai Khan. This text encapsulates all the Hinayana and Mahayana teachings of the Buddha. It begins with a discussion of civil law and then goes to a discussion of Dharma, covering all the topics of the four tenet systems, as well as the ground, path, and fruit, and ends with a brief discussion of the three kayas.

    In the Nyingma tradition he continues to be revered as a previous birth of Dudjom Rinpoche. The previous Dudjom Rinpoche, Jigdral Yeshe Dorje, includes him in the famous Pearl Necklace prayer, a supplication he was asked to compose to his thread of previous lives, that appear in Wisdom Nectar. This is also related, along with a shorty biography, in the Light of Fearless Indestructible Wisdom, the biography of Dudjom RInpoche by Khenpo Tswang Dongyal.

    Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche in his masterpiece of the Teacher-Disciple relationship, The Guru Drinks Bourbon, recounts this story:

    "There is a folktale of a Chinese emperor who never managed to receive proper teachings from Sakya Pandita because he was testing Sakya Pandita again and again. Even though Sakya Pandita proved to be a great master, the emperor’s skeptical habit was ceaseless. Eventually the intended guru, Sakya Pandita, died, and they say that because of this, the people of the Yuan dynasty had to receive the teachings from Sakya Pandita’s nephew, Drogon Chogyal Phakpa.

    If you are genuinely seeking the truth, you have to come to a conclusion at some point. Otherwise, like the Chinese emperor, you’ll end up wasting your time. If you keep on analyzing somebody, you will always find faults."

    An example of the Nepalese influence on Chinese art that Chogyal Phagpa introduced to the court in China. From The Art of Buddhism.

    Chogyal Phagpa's legacy extends into the artistic realm as well. The Art of Buddhism tells how he invited the Nepalese artist Aniga along with a group of others to Beijing where they profoundly influenced Chinese Buddhist art from then on.

    There are a couple other excellent resources we should mention.

    The first is the biography on the Treasury of Lives site.

    The other is The Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism by Dhongtong RInpoche, published by Wisdom.


  • Who Is Milarepa?

    Milarepa, the famous Tibetan yogi, lives on through his joyous, instructional songs and poetry. Both the new translation of The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa, from Christopher Stagg, and Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s exploration of his life in Milarepa: Lessons from the Life & Songs of Tibet's Great Yogi bring new light to the resonance Milarepa’s story still carries centuries later.

    Milarepa is remembered for his remarkable determination and personal growth. His inspiring story traces the very familiar, human progression from confusion to clarity. Early in his life, Milarepa came to understand tenents of both privilege and oppression. Though born to a wealthy family, the death of Milarepas father left him and his mother at the mercy of his aunt and uncle, who put them to work as servants for their own family. At his mothers request, Milarepa studied the craft of black magic to be better able to retaliate against their cruelty. Not only was he successful in mastering these magical abilities, he promptly used his skills to take the lives of his aunt and uncles entire family. In this way, Milarepa had invited an immense amount of negative karma into his life as a young adult. Soon after committing these crimesMilarepas joy at having aided his mother began to fade, making way for inescapable remorse. This transformation led Milarepa to seek out a master teacher. 

    “Milarepa’s life story shows how one can progress from being caught in the cycle of confusion, known as samsara, to becoming a student entering and practicing the path of dharma, to eventually becoming a teacher oneself and taking on the responsibility of training others.” 

    It was not long before Milarepa found Marpa the translator, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher. Marpa was able to see Milarepa’s potential, but knew that the young man would have to process his remorse and uncertainty before beginning his time as a student of the dharma. In order to guide him to a place of preparedness, Marpa set Milarepa to his legendary task of building, destroying, and rebuilding stone towers. This process was intended “to purify the negativity of his past actions, so that Milarepa could begin his studies with fewer obstacles.”

    Marpa’s challenge pushed Milarepa “almost to the point of suicide before he agreed to take him on as a student.” Thus began Milarepa’s journey to becoming the yogi and poet that he is remembered as today. He began his simple, solitary lifestyle, living in caves. He often wore little clothing, even in the winter months, and became known as “the cotton-clad one.” Though he did not seek students, word of his practice traveled, and he was sought out by many. It is said that Milarepa “engaged with whoever approached him,” and it is through his teaching that his spontaneous songs and poetry were shared.

    “Milarepa sang hundreds of such songs. The standard collection, The One Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa (Tib. Mila Grubum) is said to have been compiled by Tsang Nyön Heruka, the “Mad Yogi of Tsang,“ based on transcriptions of the songs that up to then had been only transmitted orally. In this collection, every song comes with a story about how it came about. The collection also includes many descriptions of how Milarepa worked with people, not only through song but in nonverbal ways. We can see how he interacted with his students and how he created situations that challenged them and woke them up. That is, Milarepa did not just sing [songs about] the dharma but he fully embodied the dharma. Because of that, he was able to teach freshly, spontaneously, and with great humor using a variety of skillful means.”

    Milarepa's poetic teachings have touched the hearts of his students and admirers for nearly a thousand years. His life represents that of an ideal Bodhisattva, as his deep compassion created the wish of Bodhicitta and motivated him to obtain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings.

    The Song of the Snow

    On this auspicious, glorious day,
    You male and female benefactors who welcome me with
    Along with myself, the yogi Milarepa:
    We didn’t perish, and have met. Oh how joyful!
    I’m an old man with a treasury of songs,
    So I’ll answer your query of my health with this tune;
    Listen carefully with focused, attentive minds.

    At the very end of the tiger year
    And at the beginning of the year of the hare,
    On the full moon of the Wagyal month,
    Disillusioned with the things of samsara,
    I went seeking a secluded retreat
    In the remote pastures of the Lachi snowy range.
    The land and sky conferred together
    And sent down a messenger, a strong wind.
    With the elements of water and wind astir,
    Black southern clouds gathered in front.
    The sun and moon were put into prison.
    The twenty-eight constellations were strung on a wire.
    The eight planets were put into shackles by edict.
    The great Milky Way was tethered down.
    The morning star was completely wrapped in mist.
    Wind with sleet blew, and finally,
    Snow fell for nine days and nine nights;
    With the days and nights together totaling eighteen.
    The big flakes were big; they fell like thick layers of wool,
    Like birds in flight that plummet down.
    The small flakes were small; they fell like tiny wheels,
    Like bees flying around, then dropping down.
    Other small flakes the size of mustard seeds and beans,
    Lumped together and fell like balls of sleet.
    Snow fell in more sizes than one could count.

    High above, the snowy white peaks touched the sky.
    Below, the plants and trees were matted and pressed.
    The mountains of black donned a blanket of white,
    An ocean with waves that were frozen over.
    The blue rivers’ waters were put in a shell.
    The contour of the land was evened to a plain.
    Because this snowfall was so great,
    The black-haired people became socked in.
    The four-legged creatures were stricken with famine:
    Especially the old, weak ones’ sustenance was cut.
    Above, the birds’ food source was depleted.
    Below, the pikas and mice hid in their stores.
    The meat-eating animals were unable to eat.

    As for the fate of such sleet and strong wind
    And particularly the fate of me, Milarepa:
    That blizzard that came down from above,
    The strong winter wind of the new year,
    And I, the yogi Milarepa’s cloth, these three,
    All fought on the side of the high snow mountain.
    But I was victorious over the snowfall, and it melted to water.
    Though the wind roared powerfully, it naturally subsided,
    And my cloth, like fire, was blazing strong!
    Two wrestlers contended there in a life-or-death match.
    I gave it the edge of my kingly sword.
    I was victorious in that fight where the valiant ones were overthrown;
    Thus, all dharma practitioners earned some clout
    Especially meditators, twice as much;
    In particular, my single chandali cloth showed its greatness.
    The four gatherings of illness were put on the scale.

    Then, inner disturbances were completely vanquished.
    Both cold and hot pranas were fully cast out.
    Later, the [elements] listened and heeded what was said.
    The demon of snow and sleet was suppressed.
    Then, all was resolved and completely still.
    Though samsara’s brigade tried, it didn’t succeed.
    Thus, this yogi won the fight.

    I’m my grandfather’s descendant, with the coat of a tiger;
    I’ve never fled wearing the coat of a fox.
    To my father was born a son of the class of champions;
    I’ve never lost in the face of a foe.
    I’m of the family of lions, the king of beasts;
    I’ve never lived in a snowless land.

    Fate has once again played its joke.
    If you trust that what this old man says has any power,
    The practice lineage teachings will spread in the future,
    A few siddhas will also come,
    And I, the yogi Milarepa,
    Will be renowned throughout the lands.
    You disciples will have faith
    And fame of you will later spread.

    I, a yogi, am very well.
    You benefactors, how are you?


    Quotes from Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Text excerpt from Tsangnyon Heruka, translated by Christopher Stagg.

  • The Drikung Kagyu: A Reader's Guide

    Jigten Sumgon, from The Buddhist Art Coloring Book 2

    What follows is a guide to some of our books and other resources available on that relate to the Drikung Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. The Drikung lineage comes from Marpa, Milarepa, and Gampopa through Phagmo Drupa and Jigten Sumgön, who is considered the root of the tradition. His most famous work, the Gongchik, or “Single Intention,” is a collection of profound statements summarizing the entirety of the Buddhist path for which several famous commentaries have been written. Jigten Sumgön (1143–1217) is also known for his special teachings on Mahayana, Mahamudra, and the Six Yogas of Naropa. After Jigten Sumgön established a monastery and retreat center at Drikung Thil in central Tibet, the lineage flourished, becoming one of the most influential Tibetan Buddhist traditions. Over the centuries the Drikung Kagyu have established monasteries throughout Tibet and the greater Himalayan region, and have recently established meditation centers internationally, including in the United States, Germany, and Vietnam.

    The current heads of the lineage are His Holiness Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche and His Holiness Drikung Kyabgon Chungtsang Rinpoche. His Holiness Chungtsang Rinpoche still resides and teaches in Tibet in Lhasa, while His Holiness Chetsang Rinpoche lives in India and regularly travels throughout the world to impart Buddhist teachings.

    His Holiness Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche

    The story of His Holiness Chetsang Rinpoche is at once amazing, heartbreaking, and inspiring. It is told in From the Heart of Tibet: The Biography of Drikung Chetsang Rinpoche, the Holder of the Drikung Kagyu LineageThis biography traces His Holiness's journey from his recognition as a tulku and early training to an oppressed life under the Chinese to his escape to India and then to the United States and eventually back to India, where he founded the Drikung Kagyu Institute, the Songtsen Library, and Samtenling Nunnery. His Holiness Chetsang Rinpoche has also established retreat centers both in India and abroad. His Holiness is an avid historian, environmentalist, and a passionate advocate for world peace.

    The Drikung Kagyu are well known for their unique presentation of the Five Paths of Mahamudra, a program that includes: arousing bodhichitta, deity visualization, guru yoga, Mahamudra meditation, and finally, dedication of merit. In The Practice of Mahamudra, His Holiness presents this fivefold teaching, which includes advice from Tilopa and Gampopa.

    Khenchen Konchog Gyaltsen is another great contemporary scholar of the Drikung and has published multiple works with an emphasis on the Drikung Kagyu teachings.

    Opening the Treasure of the Profound: Teachings on the Songs of Jigten Sumgön and Milarepa is a wonderful collection of vajra songs. It also includes over sixty pages on Jigten Sumgön by His Holiness Chetsang Rinpoche, Ngorje Repa (a student of Sakya Sribhadra and Jigten Sumgön) and Drikung Kyabgon Padmai Gyaltsen.

    A Complete Guide to the Buddhist Path is Khenchen's presentation of The Jewel Treasury of Advice, a text composed by Drikung Bhande Dharmaradza (1704–1754), the reincarnation of Drikung Dharmakirti, Rigdzin Chokyi Drakpa (1595–1659). This work includes advice for meditators, Mahayana practitioners, and Vajrayana practitioners. The teachings include Mahamudra preparation and practice, dispelling obstacles, the Six Yogas of Naropa, and the final result of practice.

    The Great Kagyu Masters: The Golden Lineage Treasury brings the lives and teachings of many of the great Kagyupas to light. From Vajradhara to Jigten Sumgön, this collection also includes Shakyamuni Buddha himself, Tilopa, Naropa, the Four Great Dharma Kings, Marpa, Milarepa, Atisha, Gampopa, Phagmo Drupa, and more.

    The Garland of Mahamudra Practices is a translation of Clarifying the Jewel Rosary of the Profound Five-Fold Path by Kunga Rinchen, the Dharma heir to Jigten Sumgön. It begins with instructions on ngondro followed by a special set of preliminary practices focused on generating love, compassion, and bodhichitta. It then goes into the main practices of deity yoga, meditation on the guru as the four kayas, meditation on Mahamudra and the view, and the pith instructions on the nature of mind.

    Khenchen Konchog Gyaltsen has also translated Gampopa's Jewel Ornament of Liberation, which is a core text across all Dakpo Kagyu traditions.

    The Third Khamtrul Rinpoche references Jigten Sumgön throughout his extraordinary text The Royal Seal of Mahamudra, Volume One: A Guidebook for the Realization of Coemergence.

    There are also two works on the practice tradition of the Six Yogas of Naropa with an emphasis on the Gelug tradition. These works both highlight the centrality of the Drikung Kagyu lineage in the transmission of these practices to Tsongkhapa: The Six Yogas of Naropa: Tsongkhapa's Commentary and The Practice of the Six Yogas of Naropa.

    In Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche's autobiography Brilliant Moon, the Drikung Kagyu tradition comes up several times. The first is when he was young and staying in Draktsa, he had a vision of what he thought was Tseringma, which he attributed to the long presence of disciples of the Gyalwa Drikungpa (Jigten Sumgön) staying there in archaic times. Later, His Holiness Chetsang Rinpoche became his student and he taught him extensively, including spending two months imparting the Treasury of Precious Instructions.

    Many other works discuss the Drikung Kagyu tradition and quote from its lineage holders, including:

    Additionally, we have over two dozen articles from the Snow Lion newsletter archive that are Drikung Kagyu specific. Please explore!

    Another excellent resource is, which contains information on many of the teachers and events in the Drikung Kagyu tradition, including the 800th parinirvana anniversary celebration of Jigten Sumgön, which will be held in October 2017 in Dehra Dun, India, and will be presided over by His Holiness Chetsang Rinpoche.

  • Sakyasribhadra: A Reader's Guide to the 12th Century Kashmiri Pandita

    Image from HAR

    Sakyasribhadra, also known as Sakyasri or Khache Panchen, was an important Kashmiri pandita in the 12th and early 13th centuries who came to Tibet. His full biography is on the Treasury of Lives site. He has a connection with many of the lineages in Tibet extant during his visit.

    He is well known in the Sakya tradtion for being one of Sakya Pandita's teachers. Together they translated Dharmakirti's Pramanavarttika which Saypan then taught extensively.

    As described in both Parting from the Four Attachments: A Commentary on Jetsun Drakpa Gyaltsen's Song of Experience on Mind Training and the View and Treasures of the Sakya Lineage, Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen, Sakya Pandtia's uncle was practicing so Saypan and Sakyasribhadra went to see him:

    "Jetsun Rinpoche was making the offerings and praises to the Guhyasamaja deity he had created in front of him. Thinking he should show respect to his visitor, he rose to greet the Pandita, intended to place his bell and vajra on the table but leaving them hanging in the air.

    The great Pandita said, 'That is really a cause for amazement.'

    Jetsun Rinpoche humbly replied, 'This is nothing amazing at all.'

    The Pandita then prostrated to Jetsun Rinpoche, but the junior panditas with him complained, saying 'It is not appropriate to offer prostrations to a layperson. Even though you did it already, please do not offer him more.'

    The great Pandita replied, 'Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen is the true Mahavajradhara. He has seen the mandala of Guhyasamaja.' He then made Jestun Rinpoche his crown ornament."

    Later, according to Ringu Tulku's The Ri-Me Philosophy of Jamgon Kongtrul, Sakyasribharda gave Vajrikilaya instrucitions to Jetsun Drakpa Gyaltsen.

    This work discusses Sakyasribhadra several times, including how he brought a Kalachakra teaching lineage to Tibet, now referred to as Panchen Luk or Chal Luk.

    When the Clouds Part: The Uttaratantra and Its Meditative Tradition as a Bridge between Sutra and Tantra mentions him several times, once in an account from Go Lotsawa's Blue Annals of Sakyasribhadra giving pith instruction on the five works of Maitreya, and a brief discussion of his Mahamudra transmissions.

    He is known for establishing an ordination lineage of the Vinaya in western Tibet after the dark period following King Langdarma. Sakyasribhadra also introduced a new way of approaching Buddhist chronology, different from what had come into Tibet previously but closer to what we know today from scholarly research.  He is also associated with a teaching lineage on the Treasury of Abhidharma.

    He is also connected with the Drikung Kagyu tradition and Jigten Sumgon. This is detailed in several sections on Opening the Treasure of the Profound: Teachings on the Songs of Jigten Sumgon and Milarepa. Here is one of them, translated from Pemap Karpo:

    "An arhat from Ceylon gave three golden flowers to Khache Panchen and asked him to take them to Tibet. He said that one should be given to the incarnation of Arya Nagarjuna, but Khache Panchen didn’t know where to find him. When Khache Panchen was staying at Lemoche, he announced that whoever came to him for bhikshu ordination would receive a Dharma robe. A Khampa monk from Drigung received ordination and asked for a robe, but none were left. He insisted, and tugged at the robe of Khache Panchen. Khache Panchen’s attendants beat him, and blood flowed from his mouth and nose.

    Ordinarily, White Tara would appear in Khache Panchen’s meditation, but for seven days after that incident she didn’t show herself. Khache Panchen did purification practices and supplicated her. After seven days had passed, Tara appeared with her back turned to him. 'Arya Tara,' he asked, 'what have I done wrong?' She replied, 'You defiled your karma by beating Nagarjuna’s disciple.' 'I don’t remember that,' he said, and Tara answered, 'You beat him until he bled.' Khache Panchen asked how he could purify that misdeed, and Tara replied, 'You should give Dharma robes equal in number to your years to those monks who have none.' He promised to do that, and then searched for the monk who had been beaten. He found him, learned the name of his teacher, and realized that Jigten Sumgön was Nagarjuna. He offered the flower to him."

    For the Nyingma tradition he was a supporter, reporting the existence of both the Guhyagarbha tantra-which he saw with his own eyes in Sanskrit at Samye- as well as the extant practice of Varjakiliaya in India, both of which had come under some doubt in some quarters as not having confirmed Indian origins.

    Jamgon Kongtul Lodro Thaye, in his Autobigraphy recounts several appearances of Khache Panchen including this dream:

    "One night, I dreamed of a temple in the Indian style, with a courtyard surrounded by a low brick wall. Off to one side, I saw an image of the great glorious Vajrakumara, in a style resembling the Nepalese, which I understood to be painted by Khaché Panchen in blood that flowed from his own nose. To either side of the figure, the canvas was filled with depictions of the essential mantra of the deity. This image became more and more radiant, until finally I couldn’t bear to look at it."

    There is an out-of-print book by David Jackson, Two Biographies of Sakyasribhadra, (there were five but the other three are lost) a review of which is available on

    For those with access, the Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 114, has Leonard van der Kuijp's "On the Lives of Sakyasribhadra".

    Lotsawa House has several pieces of has work translated including Instructions on Pure View and Conduct, A Brief Practice for Paying Homage and Making Offerings to the Buddha Together with his Retinue of Arhats, and The Seven Branches for Practicing the Sacred Dharma (which includes a common refuge prayer).

  • Jamgon Kongtrul Reader's Guide

    Jamgön Kongtrul Lodro Thaye was one of the greatest masters of Tibetan history, who the Tibetologist Gene Smith referred to as Tibet’s Leonardo. It’s difficult to imagine a master who was so learned, spent much of his time in retreat, gave countless initiations and teachings, and yet still managed to write 100 volumes inclusive of all the traditions of Buddhism.

    Tsadra Rinchen Drak
    Tsadra Rinchen Drak, the hermiate for Jamgon Kongtrul

    The Books

    Shambhala has published thirty-one titles Kongtrul, wrote, compiled, or is central in. There are eighteen more on the way. Below you will also find references to a handful of other excellent books not published by us but highly recommended.

    Books about Jamgon Kongtrul

    The first two books have the most information about Kongtrul himself. These will be joined in 2018 by a definitive biography looking at the life, works, and legacy of this great figure. For a short biography online, please see Alak Zenkar Rinpoche’s biography hosted by Lotsawa House.


    The Life of Jamgon Kongtrul the Great

    This is the most accessible work available on Jamgon Kongtrul’s life, writings, and influence, written as a truly engaging historical biography. Alexander Gardner, who is a specialist of Jamgon Kongtrul, provides an intimate glimpse into the life of one of the most important Tibetan Buddhist teachers to have ever lived.

    The Autobiography of Jamgön Kongtrul: A Gem of Many Colors

    This is one of the most fascinating accounts of a Tibetan Buddhist figure available. It also includes The Marvelous Gem-Like Vision: An Account of the Passing of and Funeral Observances for the All-Seeing Lord by Nesar Karma Tashi Chöphel and The Mirage of Nectar: A Fragmentary Account of the Past Lives of Pema Gargyi Wangchuk Thrinlé Drodul Tsal (his own secret name) by Jamgön Kongtrul Lodro Thaye.

    The Ri-me Philosophy of Jamgön Kongtrul the Great: A Study of the Buddhist Lineages of Tibet

    This is the compelling study of the Ri-me “movement”—really a revitalization of many of the traditions within Tibet. It includes an introduction to the history and philosophy of those behind the Ri-me phenomenon; a biography of Jamgön Kongtrul the Great; helpful summaries of the eight lineages’ practice-and-study systems, which point out the different emphases of the schools; an explanation of the most hotly disputed concepts; and an overview of the old and new tantras.

    The next section focuses on the two major Treasuries that are available or are in process. Kongtrul actually wrote or compiled five of them. The Treasury of Kagyu Vajrayana Instructions, the Treasury of Precious Terma, and the Treasury of Vast Teachings are not included here, but are detailed in Ringu Tulku’s book, Kongtrul’s Autobiography, as well as Gene Smith’s Among Tibetan Texts.

    The Treasury of Knowledge

    The Treasury of Knowledge is the largest single work by a Tibetan author translated into English. In Tibetan religious literature, its ten books stand out as a unique, encyclopedic masterpiece embodying the entire range of Buddhist teachings as they were preserved in Tibet. In his monumental work, Jamgön Kongtrul presents a complete account of the major lines of thought and practice that comprise Tibetan Buddhism.

    Treasury of Knowledge, Jamgön Kongtrül presents a complete account, thought and practice, Tibetan Buddhism

    Here is a brief history of this work from Ringu Tulku’s Ri-me Philosophy detailed above:

    Then, in the Dog and the Pig years [1862–63], when he was fifty years old, Kongtrul wrote the Treasury of Knowledge, both the root text and the commentary. He wrote the root text in the second month of the Water Dog year [1862], when he did a seven-day retreat on the hearing lineage teachings. Earlier, Lama Ngedön had said that Kongtrul should write a treatise on the three vows, and when that was done Lama Ngedön would write a commentary on it. However, Kongtrul thought that several texts on the three vows were already available, and that if he had to write something, it should be more comprehensive in scope and helpful for people who had not studied very much.

    With that in mind, during the breaks between sessions of a one-week retreat, he wrote the root text of the Treasury of Knowledge, a treatise on the three higher trainings of discipline, meditation, and wisdom. Later on, he showed this to Jamyang Khyentse, who told him, “When you wrote this you must have been inspired by the blessings of the lamas, and your channels opened by the power of the dakinis. You should place the Treasury of Knowledge at the head of the Five Great Treasuries, and you need to write a commentary on it.”

    To encourage him, Khyentse gave him many gifts along with these words. So, in only three months, from the fourth month until the seventh month of the Iron Pig year [1863], Kongtrul wrote the commentary to the Treasury of Knowledge, with Khenchen Tashi Özer acting as the scribe. The part that was left undone was finished during the warm weather of the following year.

    Book One: Myriad Worlds

    This first book of the Treasury, which serves as a prelude to Kongtrul’s survey, describes four major cosmological systems found in the Tibetan tradition—those associated with the Hinayana, Mahayana, Kalachakra, and Dzogchen teachings. Each of these cosmologies shows how the world arises from mind, whether through the accumulated results of past actions or from the constant striving of awareness to know itself.

    Books Two, Three, and Four: Buddhism’s Journey to Tibet

    Beginning with the appearance of the Buddha in our world (Book Two), it describes the Buddha’s life, his enlightenment, and what he taught (Book Three) from a multitude of Buddhist viewpoints. Buddhism’s transmission to and preservation in Tibet is the focus of the main part of this volume (Book Four), which describes the scriptural transmissions and lineages of meditation practice as well as the Buddhist arts that together make up the world of Tibetan Buddhism.

    Book Five: Buddhist Ethics

    This volume is the fifth book of that work and is considered by many scholars to be its heart. Jamgön Kongtrul explains the complete code of personal liberation as it applies to both monastic and lay persons, the precepts for those aspiring to the life of a Bodhisattva, and the exceptional pledges for practitioners on the tantric path of pure perception.

    Book Six, Parts One and Two: Indo-Tibetan Classical Learning and Buddhist Phenomenology

    The first two parts of Book Six, contained in this volume, respectively concern Indo-Tibetan classical learning and Buddhist phenomenology. The former analyzes the traditional subjects of phonology and Sanskrit grammar, logic, fine art, and medicine, along with astrology, poetics, prosody, synonymics, and dramaturgy. The principal non-Buddhist philosophical systems of ancient India are then summarized and contrasted with the hierarchical meditative concentrations and formless absorptions through which the “summit of cyclic existence” can genuinely be attained. Part Two examines the phenomenological structures of Abhidharma—the shared inheritance of all Buddhist traditions—from three distinct perspectives, corresponding to the three successive turnings of the doctrinal wheel.

    Book Six, Part Three: Frameworks of Buddhist Philosophy

    This volume, Frameworks of Buddhist Philosophy, is his masterful survey of the broad themes and subtle philosophical points found in more than fifteen hundred years of Buddhist philosophical writings. In a clear and systematic manner, he sets out the traditional framework of Buddhism’s three vehicles and four philosophical systems, and provides an overview of the key points of each system. His syncretic approach, which emphasizes the strengths of each of the systems and incorporates them into a comprehensive picture of philosophical endeavor, is well-suited for scholar-practitioners who seek awakening through the combination of analytical inquiry and meditation.

    Book Six, Part Four: Systems of Buddhist Tantra

    The tantric path is often referred to as the indestructible way of secret mantra, the essence of which is the indestructible union of wisdom (the understanding of emptiness) and method (immutable great bliss). This volume sets forth the various systems that constitute this path, both those of the ancient tantra tradition and of the new tradition.

    Book Seven and Book Eight, Parts One and Two: Foundations of Buddhist Study and Practice

    Foundations of Buddhist Study and Practice comprises Book Seven and Book Eight, Parts One and Two of the Treasury of Knowledge. Book Seven elucidates the various keys needed to correctly interpret, understand, and contemplate Buddhist teachings, including the secret teachings of the Vajrayana. Parts One and Two of Book Eight explain how the teachings are to be integrated into one’s life through the practice of meditation, which unites a state of one-pointed attention with profound insight into emptiness. Jamgön Kongtrul’s evenhanded, elegant, and authoritative statement of such controversial doctrines as unqualified emptiness (“self-empty”) and qualified emptiness (“other-empty”), provisional and definitive meaning, and conventional and ultimate truth as presented in the various schools of Tibetan Buddhism will appeal to both serious Dharma practitioners and advanced students and scholars.

    Book Eight, Part Three: The Elements of Tantric Practice

    The Elements of Tantric Practice sets forth the essential components of the path of highest yoga tantra, a system of meditation that unites wisdom and compassion in its two phases of practice. The first phase, that of creation, relies primarily on the use of the imagination to effect personal transformation. The phase of completion allows the practitioner to perfect the process of transformation by training in methods that manipulate the energies and constituents of the mind and body. The result of this path is the direct experience of the fundamental nature of mind and phenomena. The Elements of Tantric Practice concerns the meditative processes of the inner system of secret mantra—that of highest yoga tantra—and is based primarily on tantric sources. The author introduces the subject by describing the path of tantra and its underlying principles. The main body of the book deals with two major elements essential to all highest yoga tantras: the practice of the creation phase and that of the completion phase. For the first phase, Kongtrul describes the visualization sequences in which ordinary perceptions are transformed into the forms of awakening and explains how these practices purify the stages of cyclic existence—life, death, and rebirth. The creation phase prepares the practitioner for the techniques of the completion phase, which entail focusing directly on the channels, winds, and vital essences that form the subtle body. Kongtrul presents the key elements of a variety of tantras, including the Guhyasamaja and Yamari, belonging to the class of father tantras and the Kalachakra Hevajra Chakrasamvara Mahamaya Buddhakapala and Tara mother tantras. All these tantras share a common goal: to make manifest the pristine awareness that is the union of emptiness and bliss.

    Book Eight, Part Four: Esoteric Instructions

    This volume, Esoteric Instructions, deals with meditation—specifically tantric meditation. Esoteric Instructions is a collection of intimate records of personal teachings by masters that simplify tantric meditations by providing pertinent examples and very personal and helpful hints to disciples based on the master’s own experience. Although originally oral in nature, they have been codified and passed down through specific lineages from teacher to student.

    Books Nine and Ten: Journey and Goal

    Journey and Goal focuses on the spiritual path—the journey and the resultant state of enlightenment to which it leads—the goal. Extensively varied perspectives are offered not only from within the many schools of Buddhism, but also from the different levels of practice and attainment. This is in fact the most comprehensive treatment of these themes to appear in the English language.

    The Treasury of Precious Instructions

    2016 saw the first release in this eighteen-volume work on the eight lineages of accomplishment, one model for the classifications of practice traditions in Tibet. This collection was compiled in a roughly chronological order:

    • Nyingma - Two Volumes (876 pages)
    • Kadampa Tradition - Two Volumes (1,190 pages)
    • Sakya Path & Result - Two Volumes (930 pages)
    • Marpa Kagyu - Four Volumes (1,567 pages)
    • Shangpa Kagyu - Two Volumes (1,304 pages)
    • Pacification & Severance - Two Volumes (900 pages)
    • Kalachakra & Orgyen Nyendrup - One Volume (626 pages)
    • Miscellaneous Teachings - Two Volumes (1,088 pages)
    • Jonang Tradition & Catalog - One Volume (630 pages)

    We are publishing the volumes asynchronously and releases will spread out over the next few years. See the first volume listed below.

    Translator Sarah Harding discussing the Zhije and Chöd volumes of the Treasury of Precious Instructions

    The first release from the Treasury of Precious Instructions, is volume 14,  Chöd

    Chöd: The Sacred Teachings on Severance: Essential Teachings of the Eight Practice Lineages of Tibet

    In this volume, the fourteenth in the Treasury of Precious Instructions series but the first released in English, Kongtrul compiles the teachings on Severance, or Chöd. It includes some of the tradition’s earliest source scriptures, such as the “grand poem” of €óryadeva the Brahmin, and numerous texts by the tradition’s renowned founder, Machik Lapdrön. Kongtrul also brings together the most significant texts on the rites of initiation, empowerments for practice, and wide-ranging instructions and guides for the support of practitioners. Altogether, this quintessential guide to Severance offers vast resources for scholars and practitioners alike to better understand this unique and remarkable tradition—the way of severing the ego through the profound realization of emptiness and compassion.

    The second release from the Treasury of Precious Instructions is on Zhije, or Pacification

    Zhije: The Pacification of Suffering: Essential Teachings of the Eight Practice Lineages of Tibet, Volume 13 

    In this volume, Kongtrul presents a diverse corpus of texts from the Zhije (Pacification) tradition that trace especially to the South Indian master Dampa Sangye (d . 1117), whose teachings are also celebrated In the Chod (Severance) tradition. It Includes source scriptures by Dampa Sangye, empowerments by Lochen Dharmashri, and guidance by Damp a Sangye, Lochen Dharmashri, and SOnam Pal. Also Included are lineage charts related to the transmission of Zhlje teachings as well as detailed notes and an orientation to the texts by translator Sarah Harding.

    Introduced and translated by Sarah Harding, this contains twenty-nine selections that include source scriptures and commentaries, instructions, guides, and more from a variety of authors including Machik Lapdrön, €óryadeva (the Brahmin, not the Nagarjuna disciple), Rang


    Resource Guide to The Treasury of Precious Instructions

    More Books

    Chöd Practice Manual and Commentary

    This is a rich resource for Chöd practitioners. It contains the Chöd sadhana written by the Fourteenth Karmapa in three versions: Tibetan, a phonetic rendering of the Tibetan, and English translation. Jamgön Kongtrul’s commentary on the sadhana, which forms the bulk of this book, supplies the necessary amplification and clarification; it is given both in English and Tibetan. An important feature of the commentary is the inclusion of illustrations for the different stages of visualization discussed within the commentary. All in all, this is an essential practice tool and reference guide for the serious Chöd practitioner.

    Sacred Ground: Jamgön Kongtrul on “Pilgrimage and Sacred Geography”

    This work describes two journeys: a journey outward to specific pilgrimage places in eastern Tibet, and a journey inward to the sacred world of tantra, accessible through contemplation and meditation. It sheds light on Himalayan Buddhists’ concepts of sacred land, places of pilgrimage in tantric Buddhism, and how pilgrimage is undertaken. It enhances our appreciation of the world and its sacred aspect everywhere—first and foremost, where we sit now. On the basis of this judicious choice of rare Tibetan texts, translated here for the first time, correlating inner and outer pilgrimage, this book is of considerable value to the Buddhist practitioner.

    Machik’s Complete Explanation: Clarifying the Meaning of Chöd (Expanded Edition)

    While this is not by Kongtrul, his influence comes clearly across throughout the translator’s introduction. This expanded edition also includes Machik Lapdrön’s earliest known teaching, the original source text for the tradition, The Great Bundle of Precepts on Severance (Chöd), which is found in Kongtrul’s Treasury of Precious Instructions. This pithy set of instructions reveals that the teachings of the perfection of wisdom are the true inspiration for Chöd. Machik developed a system, the Mahamudra Chöd, that takes the Buddha’s teachings as a basis and applies them to the immediate experiences of negative mind states and malignant forces. Her unique feminine approach is to invoke and nurture the very “demons” that we fear and hate, transforming those reactive emotions into love. It is the tantric version of developing compassion and fearlessness, a radical method of cutting through ego-fixation.

    On Buddha Nature

    The next three books focus on Kongtrul’s works related to Buddha Nature.

    Buddha Nature: The Mahayana Uttaratantra Shastra with Commentary

    This is Kongtrul’s The Unassailable Lion’s Roar, a commentary on one of the five Maitreya texts: the Uttaratantra.  This text discusses the nature of our mind as the very basis of everything on the Buddhist path and presents Maitreya’s text as a background for the Mahamudra teachings in a way that is especially clear and easy to understand. Also included in this volume is a translation of the text itself, as well as Khenpo Tsultrim Gyatso’s additional commentary.

    When the Clouds Part: The Uttaratantra and Its Meditative Tradition as a Bridge between Sutra and Tantra

    This extensive explanation of the Uttaratantra refers to Kongtrul nearly 100 times and includes a translation of his Guiding Instructions on the View of Great Shentong Madhyamaka - Light Rays of the Stainless Vajra Moon. Kontrul refers to this text as "the highest of all dharmas taught by the Buddha, being the unsurpassable one or the peak of the mahāyāna scriptures".

    On Buddha Essence: A Commentary on Rangjung Dorje’s Treatise

    Thrangu Rinpoche uses the commentary Kongtrul wrote in 1870 as the basis of this work on the Third Karmapa Rangjung Dorje’s famous work.

    Additional Works Kongtrul Wrote Himself.

    Enthronement: The Recognition of the Reincarnate Masters of Tibet and the Himalayas

    Even the most casual contact with the culture, politics, or religion of Tibet and the surrounding region brings outsiders face-to-face with the institution of reincarnate spiritual masters. Past masters are identified as small children installed in their predecessor’s monastery in a ceremony called “enthronement” and educated to continue the work of their former incarnation. This custom has provided a principal source of spiritual renewal for Himalayan Buddhists for the past thousand years. The introduction places the subject of reincarnate meditation masters within two major contexts: the activity of bodhisattvas, and in modern Tibetan society, where the reappearance of past masters is both natural and profoundly moving. Tai Situpa Rinpoche, a contemporary reincarnate master and a leader of the Kagyu lineage, describes the process of finding other reincarnate masters.

    The Great Path of Awakening: The Classic Guide to Lojong, a Tibetan Buddhist Practice for Cultivating the Heart of Compassion

    Here is a practical Buddhist guidebook that offers techniques for developing a truly compassionate heart in the midst of everyday life. For centuries, Tibetans have used fifty-nine pithy slogans originally presented in the Kadampa master Chekawa’s Seven Points of Mind Training—such as “A joyous state of mind is a constant support” and “Don’t talk about others' shortcomings”—as a means to awaken kindness, gentleness, and compassion.

    This edition of The Great Path of Awakening contains an accessible, newly revised translation of the slogans from Chekawa’s text. It also includes illuminating commentary from Jamgön Kongtrul that provides further instruction on how to meet every situation with intelligence and an open heart.

    Jamgön Kongtrul’s Retreat Manual

    The Kagyu and Nyingma traditions of Himalayan tantric Buddhism require a long period of intensive training in meditation—a three-year, three-month retreat—before a practitioner is considered to be a qualified teacher.Jamgön Kongtrul’s Retreat Manual was written in the mid-nineteenth century and is intended for those who wish to embark on this rigorous training. It guides them in preparing for retreat, provides full details of the program of meditation, and offers advice for their re-entry into the world.


    The Teacher-Student Relationship

    It is crucial for students of Vajrayana Buddhism to find an authentic wisdom teacher and know how to properly rely upon that teacher in order to awaken to their Buddha Nature and thereby attain full enlightenment. Fortunately, the topic has been thoroughly explored by Jamgön Kongtrul in the tenth chapter of The Treasury of Knowledge, singled out here. This essential text clearly lays out what credentials and qualities one should look for in a wisdom teacher, why a wisdom teacher is necessary, and how the relationship between this teacher and disciple best develops once it is established.

    The Torch of Certainty

    is Kongtrul’s famous ngöndro text, exploring the nature of impermanence, the effects of karma, the development of an enlightened attitude, and devotion to the guru. Kalu Rinpoche, Deshung Rinpoche, and Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche also add commentaries and explain the significance of The Torch of Certaintyfor modern-day students and practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism.

    Other Works Contributed to, Compiled by Kongtrul

    The Profound Inner Principles with Jamgön Kongtrul Lodro Taye’s Commentary Illuminating “The Profound Principles”

    With masterful clarity and precision, The Profound Inner Principles delineates the principles and foundations of Vajrayāna practice. Rangjung Dorje presents the nature of things—mental and physical—and looks at the cause of delusion, what delusion creates, and how delusion is corrected. His explanations capture the principles of the Vajrayāna’s niruttara tantras, with a special focus on the structure and functioning of the body. Just assugatagarbha, or Buddha Nature, is the nature of our mind, the potential for awakening lies within our body. The Mahāyāna literature refers to this pure potential as the evolving gotra, whereas the Vajrayāna refers to it as the “vajra body”—the subtle body of channels, winds, and bindus with six elements (earth, water, fire, wind, space, and wisdom-bliss). The vajra body is not only our innate capacity, it is also our path. Understanding its components and properties is essential for most meditators. The overarching theme of the text is that we need to understand how Buddha Nature is present in sentient beings, those on the path, and buddhas. All the details concerning the mind’s workings, the vajra body’s structures, and the meditations, paths, and stages will reinforce that understanding and give us insight into how and why the Vajrayāna path provides access to wisdom through the body.

    This translation includes a commentary by Jamgön Kongtrul with extensive footnotes containing extracts from all the other important commentaries to The Profound Inner Principles, several glossaries with annotations by the translator, a works cited list, a selected bibliography, and an index.

    Timeless Rapture: Inspired Verse of the Shangpa Masters

    This book is a compilation of the songs of the Shangpa Kagyu masters and offers a rare glimpse into the mysticism of this tradition based mainly on the profound teaching of two women, Niguma and Sukhasiddhi. Kongtrul compiled this compendium of spontaneous verse sung by tantric Buddhist masters from the tenth century to the present and includes translations as well as short descriptions of each poet’s life and a historical overview of the lineage. Kongtrul chooses songs that are also teachings. They address thepractical and relevant questions for all Buddhists: how to live a meaningful life, how to confront death, and how to enter and remain within the sacred sanctuary of the mind’s nature: enlightenment.

    Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times

    Kongtrul was known to say that “there was no area of Tibetan soil larger than a horse’s hoof untouched by Guru Rinpoche’s feet.” This collection has four very different Tibetan accounts of his story: one by Jamgön Kongtrul; one according to the pre-Buddhist Tibetan religion Bön, by Jamyang Kyentse Wongpo; one based on Indian and early-Tibetan historical documents, by Taranata; and one by Dorje Tso. In addition, there are supplications by Guru Rinpoche and visualizations to accompany them by Jamgön Kongtrul.

    Buddhist Fasting Practice: The Nyungne Method of Thousand-armed Chenrezig

    While not by Kongtrul, Wangchen Rinpoche relies heavily on Kongtrul’s writings, referencing him throughout the book. Nyungne is a profound, two-and-a-half-day practice of purification and healing developed by a nun (from varying accounts Kashmiri or from the Swat area of present-day Pakistan) who developed this practice and healed her leprosy. It involves the keeping of strict vows; the second day is devoted to complete silence and fasting. The meditation centers on the recitations, mantras, and guided visualizations of the Thousand-Armed Chenrezig, the embodiment of all the buddhas’ loving-kindness and compassion. Translated as “abiding in the fast,” Nyungne is said to be effective in the healing of illness, the nurturing of compassion, and the purification of negative karma.

    Tibetan Treasure Literature: Revelation, Tradition, and Accomplishment in Visionary Buddhism

    This exploration of the terma tradition has Kongtrul featured, no surprise considering the vastness of his work with terma texts.

    Book Published by Other Publishers

    Other titles by Kongtrul include the volumes of Light of Wisdom (Rangjung Yeshe) and Creation and Completion (Wisdom) and, for an excellent source on terma, his own Hundred Tertons (KTD).

    Lotsawa House hosts many other translations of Kongtrul.

    Jamgön Kongtrül (1813–1899) was a versatile and prolific scholar. He has been characterized as a "Tibetan Leonardo" because of his significant contributions to religion, education, medicine, and politics.

  • Kharchen Pelgyi Wangchuk

    This series of blog posts are meant to be resources guides to complement the biographies of the great masters and scholars on the Treasury of Lives site.

    Image of Kharchen Pelgyi Wangchuk

    Kharchen Pelgyi Wangchuk, from the Shechen Archives

    The biography in the Treasury of Lives site (, like several other sources, alludes to Kharchen Pelgyi Wangchuk possibly being Yeshe Tsogyal's brother.

    However, in Yeshe Tsogyal's biography by Gyalwa Changchub and Namkhai Nyingpo which was discovered by the Terton Samten Lingpa and published in English as Lady of the Lotus-Born, Kharchen Pelgyi Wangchuk was the chieftain of one of the seven fiefdom's of Tibet's rulers, and had a vision along with his wife while "at play in the delights of love. " After this there were dreams and sometime later Yeshe Tsogyal was born.

    Later, he became a disciple of Guru Rinpoche. In Naked Awareness, Karma Chagme relates how Kharchen Pelgyi Wangchuk achieved liberation. Guru Rinpoche said to him: " €˜Palgyi Wangchuk, listen! The mind is primordially insubstantial, without anything on which to meditate. To the intellect it is ungrounded and unmodified. Let it be self-arisen and self-displaying. Dwelling in that state, you become a Buddha without rejecting the cycle of existence.' Thus Palgyi Wangchuk was liberated. "

    He is also briefly discussed in the second volume of the second volume of the Treasury of Knowledge.

    TBRC Reference:!rid=P0RK1217

    Treasury of Lives Site:

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